Barrister: Birmingham Labour decision to disenfranchise members unlawful

Just before Christmas, this blog covered a decision by Birmingham Labour Party to set a qualification date for voting on local election candidates clearly designed to prevent the selection of pro-Corbyn candidates – a decision that will mean the disenfranchisement of two-thirds of Labour Party members in Birmingham for up to 6 years.

As a result of that article, a call for evidence went out (more is still, of course, welcome) and, based on Birmingham Labour’s rules and information provided by local members, a highly-qualified barrister has issued a detailed legal opinion on the actions of Birmingham Labour.


The full document is too long to show here in full but is available for download as a PDF at the end of this post, but his key points are:

  1. the rules of the Labour Party are governed by contract law
  2. Birmingham Labour cannot claim any distinct identity from the national party and, therefore, has no exemption from following Labour’s rulebook to allow it to set its own, arbitrary rules for candidate selections
  3. that the decision to apply a cut-off date of July 2015 (thereby excluding members who joined to support Jeremy Corbyn) does not fit a reasonable application of the rules and is therefore untenable
  4. that even if Birmingham Labour obtained special dispensation for its cut-off date (there is no evidence that they did), that dispensation is invalid and should be immediately withdrawn

Here are a few key quotes (highlighting added):


In addition to this legal opinion, the SKWAWKBOX also received testimony from local members alleging that normal democratic processes were completely ignored by certain highly-placed officials, rendering the disenfranchisement decision even more unsound. Even though the members belonged to different areas, their description of events and the sidelining of proper process were consistent – and damning.

Labour in the West Midlands is something of a stronghold of hardened right-wingers at MP and local government levels. Based on this expert analysis of the rules and circumstances, along with the other testimony this blog received, it seems clear that many of these officials have no intention of allowing their right-wing solidarity to be challenged by something as unimportant (to them) as democracy and the wishes of two-thirds of members.

This legal opinion has also been provided to leaders of Momentum and others in Birmingham and the SKWAWKBOX hopes that all available actions, up to and including legal action, will be taken to break this anti-democratic stranglehold that recalcitrant right-wingers are attempting to use to protect their own position at the expense of the wishes of their members and of electoral credibility.

Full opinion in PDF form: birmingham-candidate-selection-process-opinion-jan-17

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