Labour drops legal challenge after 130k new members excluded

Labour's leadership election will go ahead with the exclusion of around 130,000 new members after five of their number dropped their legal challenge against the decision.

Monday, 15th August 2016, 12:54 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:26 pm
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses a rally of supporters in Milton Keynes on Saturday. Picture: PA

The Court of Appeal on ­Friday overturned a previous judgement and reinstated the decision of Labour’s ruling body to exclude those who had not joined the party by 12 January and held membership continuously until 12 July – the “freeze date”.

Many of the members affected are believed to back leader Jeremy Corbyn and the five who brought the initial legal challenge to the High Court have said they will not seek to overturn the appeal court’s decision in the Supreme Court.

The five – Christine Evangelou, Rev Edward Leir, Hannah Fordham, Chris Granger and ‘FM’, a teenage member – have raised £93,572 in donations but said they could not afford to take the case further.

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In a message posted on their crowdfunding website, Ms Fordham said: “This has been an odd, emotional-rollercoaster of a week for us all.

“Thank you for supporting us through this, it’s been a huge help to see how many of you care deeply about this unfair and unjust situation.

“Given the costs involved in pursuing the case further (the fee for getting the case even heard at the Supreme Court is around £8,000), we have taken the decision that this is where this particular legal case has to stop.

“But the case wasn’t in vain – although we didn’t ­succeed in reclaiming votes for the 130,000 disenfranchised members, we did win in the High Court, exposing facts which have spurred important conversations about the role of the Labour Party membership and the NEC (National Executive Committee).”

Ms Fordham said the money raised would cover legal fees and the £30,000 in costs they were ordered to pay to the NEC, which brought the case.

It is understood that the Supreme Court was preparing to hear the case on Tuesday and making arrangements to call back five justices during summer recess.

The exclusion is thought to benefit Mr Smith and Mr ­Corbyn’s campaign team reacted furiously to the news on Friday.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the NEC of undermining democracy. The Labour leader’s campaign team yesterday praised the efforts of the members who brought the case.