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Wednesday 13th
posted by Luke James in Britain

McNicol told he’ll be in the dock if Corbyn kept from ballot

LABOUR general secretary Iain McNicol could face legal action over claims he “subverted” democracy in a bid to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper for the party’s leadership contest.

National executive members have accused the party’s top official of flouting party rules — and the law — by attempting to stitch up the outcome of yesterday’s hastily arranged emergency meeting.

A leaked legal letter sent on behalf of Unite representative Jim Kennedy and other unnamed clients to Mr McNicol details a catalogue of rules that were broken.

Executive members were given just 24 hours’ notice of the meeting to decide whether Mr Corbyn should automatically be on the ballot paper — despite press reports of a meeting days earlier.

Two trade union reps were forced to cut short family holidays, with Unite’s Martin Mayer rushing back from Normandy and the TSSA's Andi Fox forced to take a taxi from Devon to be at the meeting.

“The calling of the meeting in this manner goes against the spirit of fairness, transparency and open democracy,” the letter from Howe and Co solicitors states.

And Mr McNicol and his staff are accused of briefing the media about his intention to hold the emergency meeting before informing executive members, which is a disciplinary offence.

The letter alleges he also went to “great lengths to conceal your intentions” from Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

It concludes: “Our clients are concerned the very purpose of the special meeting is to manufacture a situation whereby Jeremy Corbyn’s name will be omitted from the leadership ballot.”

The Star went to press before the conclusion of last night’s meeting, but the solicitors made clear to Mr McNicol that he will face legal action if Mr Corbyn is excluded from the contest.

Mr McNicol will be named defendant and could therefore be liable for any costs “if the court finds you have acted in an unreasonable manner.”

The union legal opinion given to the national executive committee states clearly that Mr Corbyn does not need to collect the support of MPs to be on the ballot paper because he is the incumbent.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said yesterday that any leadership election without Mr Corbyn would be a “sordid fix” that is “alien to the traditions of the Labour party.”

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Any gerrymandering, any attempt to keep Jeremy off the ballot, will mean the next leader will not have the democratic mandate he or she needs to win a general election.”

And TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said: “Frankly, it would be nonsensical for an incumbent not to be allowed to defend their record against any challenger — it would be a sham.”