Jeremy Corbyn wins fight to appear on leadership ballot paper

Committee majority rules Labour leader does not need support of 51 MPs and MEPs

Labour party lawmaker Angela Eagle challenges the party leader Jeremy Corbyn to a debate in the leadership contest saying he has failed to define the party's priorities. Video: Reuters

 

Labour MPs hoping to oust Jeremy Corbyn as leader have been dealt a blow with the decision by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to allow him to automatically appear on the ballot in a leadership election.

The committee ruled by 18 votes to 14 that, unlike any challenger, Mr Corbyn does not need the support of 51 MPs and MEPs to be a candidate in the contest triggered by a challenge by former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle.

In a separate decision, however, the committee said that only members who joined the party before February this year would be allowed to vote in the contest.

In addition, “registered supporters” who were allowed to vote in last year’s leadership election after paying a fee of £3, would now have to pay £25 and only have two days to do so.

Mr Corbyn expressed delight at the decision to allow him to automatically appear on the ballot, which came after almost six hours of sometimes fraught deliberations. He promised to campaign on “all the things that matter” for Labour and said he hoped the party’s MPs, 80 per cent of whom have expressed no confidence in him, would not challenge the committee’s ruling in the courts.

‘Better way’

“I would hope there isn’t going to be a legal challenge. There’s been a very long legal discussion this afternoon, there were very well-qualified lawyers on hand to advise so I think we are fine.”

Ms Eagle earlier complained that Mr Corbyn was not doing enough to rein in some of his supporters after a brick was thrown through the window of her constituency office and she received personal threats. But she said she welcomed the committee’s decision.

“I’m glad the NEC has come to a conclusion. I welcome the contest ahead and I am determined to win it,” she said.

Overwhelming victory

The decision to exclude members who joined less than six months ago has heartened Mr Corbyn’s enemies because they believe that many of those who voted for him last year have been disappointed by his performance as leader.

Ms Eagle, who backed the Iraq war in 2003 and the bombing of Syria last year, and abstained on Conservative welfare cuts, is poorly placed to win over votes from the left.

Another MP, former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith, is considering entering the race, a move that would split the anti-Corbyn vote and enhance the party leader’s chance of surviving the challenge.