UK Politics

Labour leadership: Corbyn ballot challenge rejected

Jeremy Corbyn in his constituency following the court ruling Image copyright Reuters

A judge has rejected a challenge to Labour's decision to allow Jeremy Corbyn to automatically stand for re-election as leader.

Labour donor and ex-parliamentary candidate Michael Foster was challenging Mr Corbyn's inclusion without having to get MPs' nominations.

Mr Corbyn called the court case a "waste of time and resources".

Mr Foster said he would not be challenging the decision: "We wanted the courts to adjudicate... they have."

It means the leadership contest - between Mr Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith, a former work and pensions spokesman - will continue as planned, with the outcome due on 24 September.

Under the party's rules Mr Smith had to win the support of 20% of its MPs and MEPs to trigger a contest. In the end, he secured 162 nominations after the other potential challenger Angela Eagle, who also initially passed the threshold for nominations, withdrew from the race.

At a highly-charged meeting earlier this month, Labour's National Executive Committee decided that, as an incumbent, Mr Corbyn was entitled to a place on the ballot paper without having to go through the same process.

Reacting to the court ruling, Mr Corbyn said: "The National Executive interpreted the rules to say that a challenger has to be challenging somebody, therefore the incumbent is there. And I am the incumbent. A challenge has been mounted, therefore I do not require any nominations.

"The National Executive decided that was the position, somebody took the case to the High Court - we've spent some time in the court on this and we got a complete vindication today - and the leadership election now goes ahead."

Mr Corbyn lost a motion of no confidence in his leadership last month. In the vote, which was not binding on him, 172 out of Labour's 231 MPs opposed Mr Corbyn while 40 voted in his favour.

Image caption Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith said he hoped Jeremy Corbyn would be on the ballot

However, the Labour leader retains the support of many party members and activists who will vote in the election.

The legal challenge was brought by Mr Foster, who unsuccessfully stood as a Labour candidate at last year's general election in the Cornish seat of Camborne and Redruth, coming second to the Conservatives.

In his 17 page judgement, Mr Justice Foskett said the court's decision was on a narrow point of law and unaffected by political considerations.

He said his interpretation of Labour's leadership rules was that "the leader would not in that situation (where there is no vacancy) be someone who was a 'challenger' for the leadership and, accordingly, would require no nominations in order to compete in the ballot to retain his/her position as leader".

It concluded: "Accordingly, the judge accepted that the decision of the NEC was correct and that Mr Corbyn was entitled to be a candidate in the forthcoming election without the need for nominations."

Reacting to the judgement, leadership challenger Mr Smith said he was pleased, saying the court 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," he added, saying he looked forward to debating his rival "as often as possible about our plans for Labour's future".

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