With Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol today confirming the start of a Labour leadership election, all eyes turn to the party’s National Executive Committee, who will decide the contest’s rules.
To trigger a leadership election while a leader is in place, a challenger needs to be nominated by 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs (currently 50). Following the official launch of Angela Eagle’s leadership bid today, McNicol released a statement saying: “I have now received sufficient nominations to trigger a contest for the position of Leader of the Labour Party.
“I will now ask the Chair of the National Executive Committee to convene a meeting to confirm arrangements for an election.”
When is the NEC meeting?
A time does not seem to have been officially confirmed yet, but it is understood that it will be as soon as possible this week – possibly even tomorrow afternoon.
Is it a normal scheduled meeting?
No. This is an “emergency” meeting for the specific purpose of deciding the rules around the contest.
What are they deciding?
Timetable – One of the first things to consider will be how long the contest should be. Last year, a longer election was favoured over a short one, with the contest running from mid-May to mid-September. With a later starting date, party conference in late September would be the obvious time for a conclusion this year, although the possibility of a snap election may throw a spanner in the works.
Freeze dates – The NEC must decide what the cut-off point is for people to sign up to vote in the contest. Last year, the freeze date came just two days before ballots were sent out, and a late influx of people registering caused a procedural headache for vetting and processing the sign-ups in a short space of time. Expect them to rule for an earlier freeze date this time around.
Nominations – The big row is expected to be over how the NEC interprets the rules concerning whether or not the incumbent leader must seek nominations from MPs and MEPs, as Eagle has done. Corbyn’s camp are adamant that he will be on the ballot automatically, while his opponents are equally
While there have been plenty of reports of contradicting legal advice, none has so far been shared with the NEC, and so many members may wait to see if any is presented to them before making their decision. Currently, figures within the party believe it is likely the committee will rule to allow Corbyn to stand automatically.
Why has the nomination threshold gone from 35 to 50?
Corbyn dramatically scraped onto the ballot last year at the last minute with the help of some MPs who nominated him in order to “broaden the debate”, helping him push over the 35 threshold.
Now, however, the number of nominations needed is much steeper, at 50. This is because to start a leadership challenge when a leader is in place, a challenger needs to get 20 per cent rather than the 15 per cent when there is a vacancy. And last year the NEC changed the rules to include MEPs as well as MPs in this. With 20 MEPs and 230 MPs, the 20 per cent threshold stands at 50.
What about the £3 supporters?
People who signed up to vote last year under the £3 supporter scheme will not automatically receive a ballot this time around – so they will need to part with another £3 and register again. This scheme will re-open once the NEC has confirmed the timetable for the election.