Jeremy Corbyn can appear on the ballot in the forthcoming Labour leadership election without the support of his own MPs, a court has ruled, clearing the way for a head-to-head contest against challenger Owen Smith.
A judge dismissed a lawsuit that could have seen the Labour leader effectively ousted by the High Court in London, since the Labour leader would have struggled to secure enough nominations to take part in a re-run of the ballot. Mr Corbyn welcomed the result, calling the case “a waste of time and resources”.
Labour donor Michael Foster brought the case against the Labour general secretary, Iain McNicol, arguing that party rules were “misapplied” when its national executive committee voted to allow Mr Corbyn an automatic place.
Mr Corbyn, who was granted a request to take part in the suit, was not present to hear Mr Justice Foskett dismiss the claim. Mr Foster indicated he would not appeal.
However, another lawsuit on behalf of Labour members prevented from voting due to a cut-off date imposed by the NEC is yet to be heard and could still complicate the leadership election.
Many of the 130,000 members excluded because they joined after January this year are believed to be Corbyn supporters.
Labour’s rule book states that “potential challengers” in a leadership contest must secure the backing of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs, or 51 nominations, but does not explicitly say whether this rule also applies to the incumbent leader.
Mr Corbyn said in a statement: “I welcome the decision by the High Court to respect the democracy of the Labour Party.
“There should have been no question of the right of half a million Labour Party members to choose their own leader being overturned.”
Following the judgment, Mick Whelan, the general secretary of the rail union Aslef, condemned the suit as “a specious, and sneaky, bid to prevent the Labour Party coming to a democratic decision and electing the leader.”
Mr Whelan said: “I wish some people, in the Parliamentary Labour Party and elsewhere, would spend less time undermining him and more time turning their collective fire on the Tories.”
Mr McNicol welcomed the fact the court “the authority and decision” of the NEC. Mr Smith also welcomed the decision, saying Mr Justice Foskett had “done the right thing”.
“This now puts to bed any questions about the process, so we can get on with discussing the issues that really matter,” Mr Smith added.
Ballot papers will start to be sent out on 22 August, with the result announced at a special conference in Liverpool on 24 September .