New Labour members win High Court battle over leadership election vote

McDonnell: Let's listen to our members for a change

Five new members of the Labour Party have won a High Court battle over their legal right to vote in the forthcoming leadership election.

The five accused the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) of unlawfully "freezing" them and many others out of the high-profile contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith even though they had "paid their dues".

The NEC decided that full members would not be able to vote if they had not had at least six months' continuous membership up to July 12 - the "freeze date".

To gain the right to vote, members were given a window of opportunity, between July 18 and 20, to become "registered supporters" on payment of an additional fee of £25. Non-members were given the same opportunity.

But Mr Justice Hickinbottom, sitting in London, ruled that refusing the five the vote "would be unlawful as in breach of contract".

The court action affects almost 130,000 Labour supporters who are victims of the freeze.

The five who won the legal challenge are Christine Evangelou, Rev Edward Leir, Hannah Fordham, Chris Granger and "FM", a new member aged under 18.

The judge said at the time each of the five 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".

The judge added that that was the basis upon which each claimant joined the party, and the basis of their contract with it.

The judge overturned the requirement that they must have been party members since January 12 - that, is at least six months' continuous membership up to July 12 - the "freeze date".

He declared: "For the party to refuse to allow the claimants to vote in the current leadership election, because they have not been members since 12 January 2016, would be unlawful as in breach of contract."

The Labour Party was given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

It is understood that the appeal could be heard later this week.