Court ruling boosts Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership chances… again
Thousands of new Labour members may get to vote after all.
Bookies have further cut the odds on Jeremy Corbyn remaining in place as the Labour leader after a second court verdict in his favour.
A high court judge ruled that Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee was not entitled to bar 130,000 people who recently became party members from voting in the upcoming leadership election.
The decision is a huge boost to Corbyn's re-election campaign, as the majority of those who have signed up since the beginning of the year are believed to support him.
It comes just over a week after a high court judge ruled that Corbyn was entitled to automatically be on the ballot paper for the Labour leadership contest.
After the latest court verdict, William Hill immediately cut Corbyn’s odds of winning from 1/10 (91% chance) to 1/16 (94%).
“This already looked an unequal contest, but this new ruling seems to spell the death knell for Smith's hopes”, said a spokesman.
The case in the High Court centred on a claim from five new members who challenged the NEC's decision to bar people who had become members or registered supporters after January 12.
Four named members challenged the decision: Christine Evangelou, the Rev Edward Leir, Hannah Fordham and Chris Granger. The fifth is under 18.
Stephen Cragg QC, representing the five members, argued that Labour's internal rules did not specify a distinction between which members could and could not vote.
He successfully argued that the NEC's decision amounted to a breach of contract with those who had paid to sign up as a member or registered supporter since January.
In his written judgment, Mr Justice Hickinbottom stated: “At the time each of the claimants joined the party, it was the common understanding as reflected in the rule book that, if they joined the party prior to the election process commencing, as new members they would be entitled to vote in any leadership contest. That was the basis upon which each claimant joined the party; and the basis upon which they entered into the contract between members. For those reasons the claimants’ claim succeeds.”
The judge also ordered the NEC to repay three of the claimants’ £25 fee, which they had paid on top of their membership dues in order to vote in the contest.
As Owen Smith’s odds of winning dropped from 6/1 to 7/1 with William Hill, the MP responded by calling for the leadership contest to be extended.
He said: "The Labour Party is the greatest agent for social change this country has ever known and I have always welcomed growth of our party and wider movement.
"Now many more members will have the chance to vote in the leadership election, I am today calling for an extension of the timetable so that all members have the opportunity to engage with Jeremy and me before making their choice."
An extension of the contest would most likely mean that the result would be declared after Labour's annual conference in September - rather than on the eve of it.