New members go to High Court to challenge rule change
A GROUP of Labour members who are “disgusted” by new rules blocking them from voting in the leadership election launched legal action against their party yesterday.
The five-strong group, who are crowdfunding the £40,000 legal costs, are challenging the decision that only members who joined before January 12 would be allowed a vote in the contest.
Representing them in the High Court, Stephen Cragg QC accused Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) of unlawfully imposing a “freeze date” on membership.
He asked Mr Justice Hickinbottom to declare that party rules had been misapplied and the five were entitled to vote.
If the court rules in their favour, almost 130,000 disenfranchised Labour supporters stand to win the right to participate in the election.
Fitness instructor Christine Evangelou, one of the five new members at the court, said: “I am disgusted that they are trying to take my vote away and the votes of people like me.”
She believes tens of thousands of new members denied the vote want to see Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn take the party “back to its social democrat, working-class roots.”
Ms Evangelou, from Enfield, north London, said she has been a Labour voter all her life but had only joined the party because she supports Mr Corbyn’s “Labour values.”
“I think it is fair to assume that most of the astonishing number of members who have recently joined wish to vote for Corbyn,” she said.
“If you are going to exclude over 100,000 voters, you are not going to get the full picture of what people actually want. “I think the Labour Party has always been a working-class, social democratic party.
“It changed under the Tony Blair leadership. I think Corbyn is taking it back to its roots and what the Labour Party actually is.”
Ms Evangelou said she had been shocked to discover that, despite her being a member, she would not have a vote in the contest between Mr Corbyn and rival Owen Smith.
Instead, she was told that she could only vote if she paid the £25 fee to register as a supporter.
The single mum added: “Money is tight and I can ill afford to spend £25 in addition to regular membership fees I am paying in order to gain voting rights that I should have — and was promised — in any event.”