Was it all about the money?
This Writer has a certain amount of sympathy for the decision that Labour’s National Executive Committee (not the Labour Party – this has been misreported widely) was within its rights to set the conditions under which members may vote in the leadership election.
But there is nothing in the Rule Book granting any right to make retrospective decisions. This, among other important elements, is not mentioned in the judges’ ruling – and that means it is flawed.
We know that around 130,000 people joined Labour between January 12 and July 12 – the date at which, we’re told, 14 members of the NEC decided that they would not be allowed to vote in the election, despite having been told, explicitly, in Labour documentation, that they would.
We also know that the same NEC members arranged a “window of opportunity” for UK citizens to sign on as “registered supporters”, in a two-day period from July 18-20, at a cost of £25 each.
It is widely believed that the price hike (the original supporters’ fee was just £3) was intended to put supporter status beyond the price range of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, most of whom are believed to be poor. The fact that steps were taken to prohibit schemes providing financial support for these people supports the claim.
Nevertheless, around 185,000 people signed on as “registered supporters”, and many of them are believed to have been new members who joined after January 12.
This means they have paid twice for the privilege of voting in the Labour leadership election – due to mis-selling of the membership by the party’s NEC.
If the decision that the NEC had unlawfully banned new members from voting had been supported, then those people would have been within their rights to demand their money back – meaning a payout of millions of pounds from party funds.
The legal action against the NEC, on the grounds that it had authorised a retrospective change that it had no right to impose, was launched by five Labour members who had joined since January 12 – including one teenager.
The Appeal Court has ruled that they must pay the NEC’s £30,000 court costs – meaning that a 16-year-old youth must now find £6,000.
The result: Labour’s NEC has protected the huge increase in funds it has accumulated through questionable means – while a punitive financial penalty has been imposed on its challengers.
Is this really what these people think Labour should be – all about the money?
Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team has released a statement which is also illuminating:
So this judge is a former employee of the Labour Party, identifying very strongly with the neoliberal, Blairite side – and now he has overturned a High Court ruling that is generally taken to favour the socialist side. How interesting.
Finally, there’s this, from a retired lawyer:
For reference, you can read the judgement here.
“Badly reasoned” and “biased”?
Then, despite the cost, the five new members who responsible for this case should definitely appeal to the Supreme Court.
In addition to the consideration of an argument not heard at the High Court – which is discounted by the retired barrister because it does not explicitly authorise the NEC in the manner assumed, it seems the Appeal Court introduced wording of its own into the judgement that had no place there, used as a precedent an example that cannot be used in such a manner, referred to a “freeze” date when in fact the date was changed, and did not deal with the breach of contract which formed the basis of the entire case.
It is a clear miscarriage of justice and must be corrected. Serious questions are to be asked about the choice of judges, and the decisions they made.
The funds can be found, and the matter would be in the hands of lawyers. So let us hope the new members who launched this case do, indeed, have the endurance to go through with it.
Labour was within its rights to stop new members voting in its leadership contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
It found Labour had the power “to set the criteria for members to be eligible to vote”, effectively reintroducing the voting ban on nearly 130,000 members.
It overturns an earlier High Court ruling that the ban was unlawful.
A spokesman for leader Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign said Friday’s verdict was legally and democratically “wrong”.
Announcing the Court of Appeal’s decision on Friday, Lord Justice Beatson said: “On the correct interpretation of the party rules, the National Executive Committee has the power to set the criteria for members to be eligible to vote in the leadership election in the way that it did.”
The judgement said: “A member’s entitlement to vote in a leadership election is not a product of him or her simply being a member, but is the result of him or her being a member who satisfies the precise eligibility criteria defined by the NEC and any freeze date provisions set by the NEC in the timetable for the election.”
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