It's easy to see what the Labour Party establishment were thinking when they decided to disenfranchise 130,000+ Labour Party members, but it's pretty much impossible to understand how they thought they could get away with it.
It was obvious that they were thinking it was vital to rig the election against Jeremy Corbyn as much as possible in order to give their Anyone But Corbyn candidate a chance of winning. They knew perfectly well that huge numbers of people were signing up as Labour Party members to support Jeremy Corbyn, and they knew that although some of the new members had signed up through their anti-Corbyn membership drive, they only represented a small fraction of the total.
Their attempt to get as many anti-Corbyn people as possible to sign up as members had clearly failed, subsumed under a huge tide of support for Jeremy Corbyn, so they then decided to take the extraordinary decision to bar the lot of them from voting, including the many thousands of people they'd just enticed into paying membership fees in order to vote against Corbyn!
The motivation for the retroactive introduction of a six month cut-off date in order to exclude recently joined members was easy enough to understand - Rigging the election in this manner was clearly their only slight hope of ousting Corbyn. But their belief that they could get away with it is pretty much impossible to fathom.
Until about the 12th of July 2016 the Labour Party website openly enticed people into paying membership fees with a very clear declaration that members are entitled to vote in leadership elections. There was no mention of cut-off dates and there was no small print saying that eligibility to vote was subject to revision by the party hierarchy. Presumably they thought that they were above the law?
The decision to retroactively disenfranchise so many people was obviously a legal case begging to be made. When it ended up in the High Court he judge had absolutely no choice but to rule that the decision to retroactively bar members from voting after having promised them the right to vote constituted an unlawful breach of contract by the Labour party. Any other decision would have been a travesty.
This was the ruling from the judge Gary Hickinbottom:
As well as ruling that the decision to disenfranchise recent members was unlawful, the judge also ruled that the £25 democratic surcharge fees paid by disenfranchised members should be returned.
"At the time each of the claimants 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. That was the basis upon which each claimant joined the party; and the basis upon which they entered into the contract between members. For those reasons, the claimants’ claim succeeds."
Some of the media coverage of this story was utterly farcical. The story in the Independent even claimed that the ruling had been "kind" to Jeremy Corbyn. The justice system doesn't exist to bestow kindness on people, it exists to make neutral rulings based on the law of the land. It's absolutely staggering that a once respected newspaper is implying that the High Court has bestowed some kind of favour on Jeremy Corbyn simply by upholding the law.
Incredibly not a single one of the articles I read in the mainstream media raised questions of competence, which contrasts very sharply with the way questions over Jeremy Corbyn's competence are shoehorned into one article after another.
Whatever Jeremy Corbyn's blunders (and there have been quite a few) none of them even remotely compare to enraging tens of thousands of Labour Party members by retroactively stripping them of their right to vote, then having that appallingly anti-democratic decision overturned in the High Court as an unlawful breach of contract.
Not only was this effort to rig the leadership election anti-democratic and unlawful, now that it's been overturned in the High Court it's clear that it was an incredibly self defeating move. It was always going to be a hard enough fight to win over a party membership that has more than doubled in size since Jeremy Corbyn burst onto the scene last summer, but convincing people to switch allegiance and vote for their Anyone But Corbyn candidate, after they cynically tried to rob them of their vote, is going to be almost impossible.
There are growing calls for the Anyone But Corbyn candidate Owen Smith to stand down because he's fighting a lost cause, but I actually think that would be a bad move.
Both candidates are pushing centre-left "investment driven recovery" strategies and calling for more workers' rights, so a continuation of the leadership debate could actually work in Labour's favour by giving more publicity to these sensible and popular Labour policies.
Of course this positive aspect of continuing the leadership contest is dependent on Smith and his supporters cutting out their muck-raking personal attacks and giving up their strategy of fearmongering about a Labour Party split (both of which are very much more damaging to the party than the benefit of having Labour Party policy in the public spotlight).
Of course it's clear that Smith has almost 0% chance of winning the leadership contest, but at least he could conduct his campaign in a manner that is beneficial to the party rather than damaging. He knows that Corbyn would almost certainly allow him back on board, because despite all of the criticism that's been slung at him (much of it completely warranted and much of it entirely unreasonable), he is nowhere near as toxic and cowardly as the Blairite coup-plotters who are skulking in the shadows and making anonymous threats in the press because they know that they cynical coup plot has failed.
There's absolutely no way the coup-plotters will give up though. They've made it clear in their anonymous threats in the press that (like their idol Tony Blair) they'd rather paralyse the Labour Party completely than allow Jeremy Corbyn any chance of success. The only ray of hope is that their coup plot has been conducted so incredibly ineptly that perhaps they're too incompetent to even carry out their threats.
Their cynical pre-planned plot to bully Jeremy Corbyn into resignation failed. Their effort to exclude him from the leadership election failed. Their effort to flood the party with new anti-Corbyn members failed. Their legal challenge to the decision that Corbyn could stand in the leadership election failed. Their effort to rig the leadership election by retroactively disenfranchising 130,000+ Labour Party members failed.
The Anyone But Corbyn coup has been one extraordinarily incompetent shambles from start to finish, which is telling, because if Corbyn is as incompetent as they keep repeatedly claiming he is, how incompetent must they be given that their concerted effort to get rid of him has turned into such an utterly inept farce?
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