How the Labour right is preparing its anti-democratic coup

The Labour Party membership was delighted by Jeremy Corbyn’s first leader’s speech to Party conference. But Labour Party members will be outraged to have it confirmed that the right wing is already planning how to attempt an anti-democratic coup to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader, over-riding the vote of the Party membership.

The Times today in an article about the Labour Party rules has accidentally let the cat out of the bag, exposing how the right wing of the Labour Party is preparing to attempt to overturn the wishes of the Labour Party membership and remove Jeremy Corbyn through an anti-democratic parliamentary coup.

The Times article refers to the Labour Party rule governing the conduct of a leadership election where that election is provoked by a challenge to the existing leader, as opposed to when the contest occurs because there is a vacancy (as there was when Ed Miliband stood down in May). On this, Labour’s (Rule 2Bii) states: ‘Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of Party conference. In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.’

As the rule speaks of there being ‘no vacancy’ it is clear there is an incumbent leader, and as it speaks of ‘potential challengers’ to that leader, it is clear the intention is that the leader and challengers would be on the ballot. But the rule is badly drafted and does not make it explicit that the incumbent leader would automatically be on the ballot, together with the potential challenger(s) that had reached the threshold to trigger a contest.

It would be easy to clarify this by adding ‘the incumbent shall automatically be included in the ballot for leader unless they state they do not wish to stand’ to the existing rule.

But The Times claims that the Labour right is rejecting any such clarification. An article ‘Row over rules on leadership’ by Sam Coates says that the right will argue ‘the requirement to get 35 Commons backers would lock out the hard left entirely from a rerun ballot’ as those MPs who nominated Corbyn in the interests of a democratic contest last time (on the assumption that the left candidate would lose) would not do so a second time, meaning Corbyn would be kept off the ballot despite having been elected by a huge majority of the membership. If the rules are not clarified it would probably come down to a ruling in the courts as to whether Jeremy Corbyn was on the ballot or not in which the courts, which are not neutral, would rule in favour of the right and keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot.