First published by The Independent, 8th August 2016
Today the High Court ruled that it is unlawful for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to bar 130,000 new party members from voting in the upcoming leadership election. Five Labour members took the NEC to court over the restrictions imposed on their right to vote, and were vindicated in a historic victory for Jeremy Corbyn, those who support him, and ordinary members forced to pay a £25 “supporters’ fee” on top of their party dues.
The NEC has endeavoured to block Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters at every opportunity, even forcing him to threaten legal action to ensure that his name appeared on the leadership election ballot. Although Corbyn’s leadership splits public opinion, it’s undeniable that he has swelled the ranks of Labour party membership to heights unseen even under Tony Blair. He commands huge turnouts at rallies up and down the country, and has energised a generation of young people who are statistically more unlikely to be politically engaged.
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bid and subsequent election inspired me to become a full Labour party member. He was the only candidate with a clear anti-austerity agenda, and he demonstrated a commitment to a politics free of smear or personality contest window-dressing. Voting for Corbyn in 2015 didn’t feel like making a compromise or choosing the lesser of several evils. To me, his policies are common sense promises that address Britain’s growing wealth divide directly.
I don’t think it’s fair that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are penalised while corporations and wealthy individuals are able to avoid paying the taxes they owe, with major accountancy firms advising government on policy and writing in loopholes to benefit themselves and their clients. University graduates should not be saddled with enormous debts, and others priced out of achieving their academic potential altogether.
We should be encouraged to use public transport, instead of being charged rip-off rail fares. Inequality of pay for women and young people should have long been abolished, as should zero hours contracts. I want to see us invest in green solutions to protect our planet and create new jobs, rather than pissing away billions on nuclear warheads designed to cause devastation and genocide.
I’m also keen to stand behind a party leader who doesn’t curry favour with media moguls who have undue influence over British politics and seek to retain the status quo. Labour should be a party that promotes fairness and equality, and protects the interests of ordinary people, not just the privileged few.
It doesn’t matter how many times the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) or political pundits (usually older, financially secure and based in London) throw around their accusations of unelectability, a split Labour party, or “dangerous socialism”. The policies that Corbyn champions are meaningful to hundreds of thousands of people, and absolutely necessary if we’re serious about building a fairer Britain that works for the good of everyone.
The Labour coup was a disgrace and the MPs involved revealed themselves as no better than bickering children. They disrespected the party members they’re elected to represent and showed major disloyalty towards a leader elected with the largest mandate in modern Labour party history.
With regard to the NEC, it’s highly disheartening that Labour members have been forced to go through the courts in order to secure a vote that should unquestionably been theirs. The NEC decided not to follow their own rules by barring those who joined Labour in the last six months from voting, an arrangement made all the more sourly suspicious as it was so obviously for partisan reasons.
Today’s High Court victory is a signal to the NEC that they cannot ride roughshod over the rights of Labour party members just because they want to slash the number of Corbyn’s supporters in the upcoming leadership election. The involvement of the courts should never have been necessary.
Attempts to dissuade newer members with financial charges, as though our more recent admission to the party makes us somehow illegitimate, will not stand. The NEC has been clearly quashed in its attempt to pervert the democratic process. Come September, if Labour party members wish to re-elect Corbyn, we absolutely will.