As the Labour party continues to cannibalise itself, another spanner gets thrown at Jeremy Corbyn. Legal advice told Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) that there were no rules about barring an incumbent leader to proceed automatically to the ballot paper as a candidate for the leadership election. But this week, Jewish millionaire, donor and former Labour candidate, Michael Foster challenged Corbyn’s right to stand at the High Court in London. Justice Foskett will hand down his verdict on Thursday with consideration for appeal applications. Corbyn is expected to ask for the leadership contest to be deferred if he loses the court case.
Foster’s objection is based on Corbyn’s inability to secure enough nominations from Labour MPs and MEPs. Foster believes that Corbyn should have more nominations to be in a position to challenge his rival Owen Smith, former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. 172 MPs and MEPs supported Smith’s nomination and if Corbyn had not been automatically added to the ballot paper, he may have struggled to find the 51 nominations necessary; however, Corbyn still has the monumental support of the grassroots membership and the so called politically aggressive Momentum Campaign, which many expect to carry him through to a winning result on 24 September. The latest YouGov poll suggests Corbyn is in pole position to beat his rival in England, however Scotland is a different story as more than half of Scottish Labour voters are disappointed with Corbyn’s leadership.
The two candidates on the ballot paper are battling for the future of the Labour Party, in addition to the vote of no confidence in Corbyn from most Labour MPs, 500 Labour councillors have publicly supported Smith’s bid. Smith, a former Tony Blair special adviser, is presenting himself as a traditional, moderate and uniting leader, apart from being pro-defence and pro-patriotism, as opposed to Corbyn’s populist, socialist dream of anti-establishment revolution. Fundamentally, it is a civil war between Labour’s left and Labour’s right.
In a separate legal action, other Labour party members, objecting to ban on the 130,000 members who joined the party after 12 January—who the NEC has disallowed to vote in the leadership election—are taking the party to court. The recent members paid £25 to join the party, whereas last year’s membership was only £3.
More trouble for Labour came from Seema Malhotra, MP and former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who accused Corbyn’s team of unauthorised access to her office and harassment of her staff, following her resignation from the front bench (as a show of her lack of support for Corbyn). The Speaker, John Bercow said he was satisfied that there had not been a breach of security and dismissed her claim.
MP Sarah Champion withdrew her previous resignation from the front bench in symbolic opposition to Corbyn’s leadership. She requested to be reinstated and was accepted back by Corbyn into her old post of Shadow Home Office Minister for Preventing Abuse and Domestic Violence. If Corbyn is allowed to stay on the ballot paper will other MPs follow suit?