Liveblog: NEC meeting on leadership challenge

12th July, 2016 5:20 pm

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21.25: The party has confirmed that the leadership contest will begin on Thursday, and the timetable will be released then. The freeze date for membership is January 12 – those who joined after that date will have to pay £25 to sign up as a registered supporter in the two day window next week.

A Labour spokesperson said:

“The NEC meeting has concluded. The timetable for the contest for the Leader of the Labour Party has been agreed by the NEC and will commence on Thursday. The timetable will be published then.”

20.49: The NEC also decided that the fee for registered supporters would be raised for this election to £25 and only be open for two days. As well as concerns of genuine entryism last year, there were reported problems of Tories signing up multiple times – and the low fee did not really cover the cost for he party of processing these voters.

There is also a cut-off date for members of six months, meaning that post-referendum joiners will not have a vote.

This basically locks in the electorate from the last contest – which, perversely may harm Corbyn slightly, as reports suggest the most recent membership boost has been largely people joining to support the leader.

20.32: Corbyn told the crowds of his supporters outside Labour HQ: “I’m on the ballot paper. We will be campaigning on the things that matter.” He also said that he hoped there would not be a legal challenge against the decision.

19.47: Well it didn’t take long: Corbyn confirmed on the ballot automatically. Majority of four.

19.46: We could have a vote in the next 20 minutes. But, in the unpredictable world of the Labour Party, the only thing we can really be sure of is things always take longer than expected.

19.22: The nominations vote will rest on a knife-edge, as it always was – anyone making certain predictions over the past few days has done so with plenty of guesswork on their side.

Two big questions remain. Will Jeremy Corbyn be able to vote despite having left the room for the discussion? And will, as some union sources have speculated, the GMB’s Mary Turner dial in from hospital to cast a vote?

If the vote is tied, as it well could be, the standing orders seem to suggest that it is carried out again to see if there are any switchers. If that ends up a draw too, it looks like it might come down to drawing straws. But in a secret ballot, who acts as straw-puller for each side?

The excitement never ends, does it?

19.11: Apologies for the delay since the last update – the meeting is expected to carry on for a long time yet. Several crates of sandwiches have gone into Labour HQ.

Committee members have now heard legal advice and are discussing it – we could get vote on nominations sooner rather than later. But how often have you heard that at left wing meeting?

17.45 – Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, has said the party’s internal democratic processes must be respected. Corbyn cannot “be allowed to hide behind incumbency”, he told the BBC.

17.15: Today’s crunch meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee t0 decide the rules around the challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership began at 2pm today.

It was always expected to be a long meeting, and it has been running now for three hours, with some suggestions it will not end until after 6pm. You can find out what’s on the agenda here.

The most controversial element of today’s meeting will be the decision on whether or not Corbyn needs nominations from MPs and MEPs to be on the ballot.

While it has not finished yet, the meeting has already proved to be dramatic. Here’s what we know so far.

Mary Turner, one of representatives from the GMB union, is absent from the meeting after being admitted to the hospital yesterday. Some perceive the GMB as one of the more Corbynsceptic unions, but delegates voted to back him at last month’s conference and General Secretary Tim Roache reiterated his support at the weekend.

NEC members were given legal advice pertaining to the nominations decision. With several legal letters flying around at the moment, it is likely that the meeting was presented with advice both suggesting Corbyn should and should not automatically be on the ballot.

The committee decided to have a secret ballot for the nominations decision. This is expected to work against Corbyn – however, that passed with a very slim majority, 17 to 15, with reports that at least one person who voted for the secret ballot also intends to vote to put Corbyn on the ballot automatically. But will Corbyn have a vote when it comes to it?

Jeremy Corbyn was asked to leave by the chair of the NEC, trade union rep Paddy Lillis, because he intends to be a candidate in the upcoming contest and it was felt his presence in the discussion would be improper. During the meeting to decide rules for the leadership and deputy leadership contests last year, Angela Eagle was not involved despite being a Shadow Cabinet representative on the NEC, due to her intention to stand for deputy leader.

There have also been reports that there were attempts today to remove Jon Ashworth from his post as a Shadow Cabinet rep on the NEC – but the frontbench team refused. Ashworth is seen as one of the few remaining Corbynsceptics in the Shadow Cabinet.

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