Amid Labour Party turmoil, court OKs keeping Corbyn on leadership ballot

The Labour Party leader can proceed in a contest with rival Owen Smith after a judge affirmed a party ruling that Mr. Corbyn could be on the ballot.

Peter Nicholls/Reuters
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn walks near his home in London on Thursday. A judge uphold a Labour Party National Executive Committee decision that allowed Mr. Corbyn to stay on the ballot in a contest for party leader without securing 51 nominations from lawmakers.

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t need to secure the support of fellow lawmakers in order to run in a contest for the head of the party, a judge ruled Thursday, bringing to a close one of the many debates about Mr. Corbyn's leadership amid a wider political shakeup in the wake of the "Brexit" vote.

The case came about after a Labour donor and former parliamentary candidate challenged a party ruling that Corbyn should be allowed on the ballot, without the requirement to first secure 51 nominations from members of his party, which is currently the opposition. There is no basis to challenge putting Corbyn's name automatically on the ballot, the high court ruled, since there was no leadership vacancy: Corbyn is the incumbent.  

The ruling upheld a previous decision by the Labour Party's governing committee. 

In a twist, the court's decision was applauded by both Corybyn, who called the case “a waste of time and resources,” according to The Guardian, and his opponent for Labour leader, Owen Smith.

The resolution of the case marked another turn in what some are calling a revolt within the party, intensified by Britain’s landmark vote in June to leave the European Union.

The battle has pitted Labour members of Parliament (MPs), who voted 172 to 40 in a no-confidence vote last month on Corbyn’s leadership, against supporters drawn from the party’s grassroots.

Days after the Brexit vote, 23 MPs had either been fired by Corbyn or resigned, pointing to what they saw as poor leadership from him and an insufficiently enthusiastic Labour campaign to remain in the EU.

The revolt drew comparisons to a parallel shakeup in the ruling Conservative Party, including the resignation of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who had been in favor of staying in the EU.

"Corbyn has had his mandate taken out from underneath him just like [former Prime Minister David] Cameron has," Fiona Hill, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe, told The Christian Science Monitor last month. "He's just as much a casualty."

The Labour leader has also weathered attacks from Cameron's replacement, new Prime Minister Theresa May. During her first Prime Minister Questions session before Parliament this month, Ms. May deflected her counterpart's questions about jobs and her selection of former London Mayor Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, likening Corbyn to an "unscrupulous boss" who "doesn't listen to his workers; a boss who requires some of his workers to double their workload; and maybe even a boss who exploits the rules to further his own career."

Michael Foster, the party donor who brought the nomination case against Corbyn that the high court rejected, told The Guardian he had no plans to appeal. The party's decision to allow Corbyn on the ballot without nominations was "correct in law," a judge ruled.

Mr. Smith, who is challenging Corbyn and has been endorsed by former leader Ed Miliband, praised the judge’s ruling. “This now puts to bed any questions about the process, so we can get on with discussing the issues that really matter,” he told reporters. 

Corbyn also welcomed the decision, saying that keeping him off the ballot could be against the wishes of Labour’s grassroots party members. “I hope all candidates and supporters will reject any attempt to prolong this process, and that we can now proceed with the election in a comradely and respectful manner,” he said.

This article includes material from Reuters.

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