HIGH COURT judgements aren’t always associated with victories for democracy and common sense, especially when they concern the labour movement.
But train drivers’ leader Mick Whelan nailed it in so describing Mr Justice Hickinbottom’s decision to back five Labour members’ plea for equal voting rights in the party leadership election.
Whelan spelled out the clear reality that treating members joining the party after January 12 differently from those already in was wrong in both principle and in law.
If the Labour national executive committee (NEC) can divide the party into first and second-class membership on grounds of organisational convenience, where would this end?
Conducting a national election when party membership is going through the roof is not easy, but that’s a problem born of success.
The catalyst for this growth spurt has been Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature and it follows that suppressing the ability of the 126,592 people who have joined since January 12 to vote would damage his campaign.
No doubt party general secretary Iain McNicol would deny this motivation, asserting the impartial role of the apparatus.
If so, he really ought to question the value of the advice he receives and places before the NEC because it is consistently wrong.
McNicol told the NEC that legal opinion indicated that Corbyn could not be guaranteed a place on the ballot paper without the nomination of 50 Labour MPs.
After this position was defeated at the NEC and as attendance at the meeting ebbed, an organisational rabbit was pulled from the hat in the form of a proposal absent from the order paper at the start of the meeting.
This was the notorious six-month-membership qualification to take part in a leadership ballot without paying a £25 “registered supporter” fee between July 18-20.
An attempt by party donor Michael Foster to get the courts to delete Corbyn’s candidacy, in line with McNicol’s earlier legal advice, was scotched by Mr Justice Foskett in the High Court on July 28.
Now McNicol’s six-month “rabbit” has been given short shrift in the same court.
And yet McNicol appears so mesmerised by his record of consistent failure that he wants to go over the top for one last big offensive in the Court of Appeal.
He should be advised not to be carried away by all the money washing around in Labour’s bank accounts by virtue of all these new members.
This should be used for political activities and election campaigns against the government, not to build up a generous retirement fund for the legal establishment.
It would be astonishing if the Court of Appeal were to overturn the High Court decision, especially given Mr Justice Hickinbottom’s emphatic statement on breach of contract.
But rather than string this out, McNicol ought to reflect on the injustice of using extra funds generated by the influx of new members to seek legal justification to deny them their democratic rights.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Mick Whelan and communication workers’ leader Dave Ward are voicing what hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Labour voters are thinking.
Their calls to stop exacerbating inner-party divisions in favour of building unity inside and beyond Labour to take on the Tories must be answered.
Labour’s electoral record since Corbyn became leader has been excellent and the party has turned over the Tories several times in Parliament.
But that process has been stalled in the wake of the attempted anti-Corbyn coup planned by New Labour bitterites.
Self-indulgence and sabotage must end and greater unity built behind the leadership elected by the whole party.