Court battle to keep Jeremy Corbyn off leadership ballot opens

Labour's NEC said Jeremy Corbyn did not need to secure nominations to be on the leadership ballot. Picture: AFP/Getty
Labour's NEC said Jeremy Corbyn did not need to secure nominations to be on the leadership ballot. Picture: AFP/Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn should be struck from the Labour leadership ballot and the vote re-run because the party’s own rules were “misapplied” by its ruling body, a court has heard.

In a case that could throw Labour into further turmoil, lawyers for a former party donor yesterday argued a decision allowing Mr Corbyn to contest the leadership election without any nominations from Labour MPs should be overturned because it was not “reasonable”.

The case at the High Court in London was heard as an opinion poll suggested Labour faces its worst result in generations if Prime Minister Theresa May calls a snap election.

The Conservatives have a 16-point lead over Labour, whose support has collapsed to just 27 per cent, according to the ICM poll. The figures mirror the result of Margaret Thatcher’s landslide 1983 victory over Michael Foot’s Labour Party.

But analysis suggested the result could be even worse if an election was called now, with Labour potentially securing fewer than 200 MPs for the first time since 1935, based on a uniform national swing.

The poll will add to the urgency felt by the majority of Labour MPs, who believe that Mr Corbyn’s leadership is to blame for the party’s lack of support.

Lawyers for Michael Foster – who has given £400,000 to the party since 2010 – told the court their client was bringing the suit to ensure that Labour Party rules were properly applied by the National Executive Committee (NEC) in its decision on 12 July. Mr Justice Foskett said he would reach his decision on Thursday.

Mr Corbyn won the support of just 40 MPs in a no-confidence vote last month, and would probably fail to secure the 50 nominations needed to rejoin the ballot against challenger Owen Smith.

However, it is believed Mr Corbyn still enjoys the support of a majority of grassroots party members and supporters, including the 183,000 who have paid £25 to take part in the current ballot.

The NEC took legal advice before voting by a majority of 18 to 14 that Mr Corbyn should automatically go on the ballot paper without needing to obtain the backing of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs.

Ballot papers will be sent out on 22 August, with the result announced at the party’s conference on 24 September.