Friday 12 August 2016

The Labour vote fiasco continues

On Monday August 8th 2016 the High Court ruled that the Labour Party NEC had unlawfully blocked members from voting because retroactively redrawing the voter eligibility rules to bar 130,000+  people from voting in leadership elections was a breach of contract.

The Labour Party NEC then decided to challenge the ruling in the Appeal Court in a case that was heard just a few days later. The Labour NEC's argument was that they were entitled to retroactively redraw the rules in order to disenfranchise party members because there was nothing in their rule book saying that they couldn't make up the rules as they go along.

There was much disdain for the argument that contracts can be retroactively altered as long as whoever issued it hasn't specifically barred themselves from retroactively tampering with the contract in order to suit their own interests. The interest in this case being to rig the Labour leadership election in favour of the Anyone But Corbyn candidate.

Incredibly the three Appeal Court judges ruled in favour of the Labour Party NEC, and that they do indeed have the right to retroactively disbar 130,000+ from voting after selling them membership on the understanding that they would be allowed to vote.

Ironically several thousand of the people the Labour Party establishment decided to bar from participation are Anyone But Corbyn supporters who were enticed into joining up to vote against Corbyn by the shadowy Saving Labour faction who still refuse to admit where their funding comes from.

There are three main considerations here. The first is that if the Labour Party are allowed to falsely advertise the benefits of Labour Party membership because their rule book doesn't expressly prohibit it, does this set a legal precedent that other organisations can falsely advertise the benefits of buying their products as long as their own internal rules don't prohibit retroactive tinkering with what's on offer? If this precedent doesn't apply to other organisations (corporations, small businesses, individuals, schools, charities ...) then does this mean that the Labour Party are subject to a different (much laxer) version of the law to the rest of us?

Another consideration is that if the Labour Party can just retroactively disenfranchise people going back to an arbitrary date in January 2016, what's to stop them from retroactively changing the rules to disbar anyone who joined the party from any other arbitrary date? If they can tinker with the rules to bar anyone who joined after January 12th 2016, why not January 12th 2015, or January 12th 2011, or January 12th 1997?

Presumably given this farcical ruling, the Labour Party could now reconvene the NEC and vote to retroactively disenfranchise anyone who joined the party since Jeremy Corbyn set about more than doubling the party membership in the space of a year, or anyone who joined the party since Ed Miliband changed the voting rules to make them more democratic, or since Tony Blair was at the peak of his popularity?

The other main consideration is that the decision to bar 130,000 members, and then the decision to use Labour Party funds (a significant proportion of which come from the membership fees the party elite are intent on disenfranchising) to appeal the decision are both displays of abject anti-democratic contempt for party members.

Retroactively barring people from voting because you don't like the way you suspect they're going to vote is appallingly anti-democratic, whether it's sanctioned by the courts or not.

If anyone was in need of proof that the Labour Party hierarchy is desperately in need of reform, then this contemptuous anti-democratic attitude is a prime example of an out-of-touch party elite being absolutely terrified of the will of ordinary party members.

Owen Smith is highly unlikely to make the Labour Party elitists more accountable to the membership, in fact he's backed by people like Tom Watson who want to strip power away from party members in order to hand it to Labour Party MPs like him.

If you are Labour Party member Jeremy Corbyn is clearly the candidate to vote for if you want to see the party made more democratic, and more accountable to ordinary party members.

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