Owen Smith’s campaign team has called on Labour HQ to prolong the leadership contest by a fortnight because of the “uncertainty” triggered by a High Court ruling which vastly expanded the number of members eligible to vote.
Kate Green, chair of the Smith campaign, wrote to general secretary Iain McNicol as the party prepares to go to court today in an attempt to overturn a judgement on the cut-off date for voting in the contest.
Green’s letter, sent last night, formally requested Labour officials extend the timetable for the ballot and put off the date of the special conference – currently listed for Saturday 24 September – as a result of the confusion created by the court case.
The legal battle is due to be heard by three senior judges today when the party opens an appeal against the victory of five new Labour members who were on Monday told they should be allowed a vote despite joining after the January 12 cut-off date.
“The challenge to the High Court ruling creates further delay and uncertainty, however, with the possibility of a further appeal to the Supreme Court by the losing side. It is a distinct possibility that ballot papers will be issued on 22 August just days after the right to vote is confirmed to a large element of the membership,” Green writes.
“Given the uncertainty, our request is that the leadership contest be delayed by two weeks. By issuing ballot papers on Monday 5 September 2016, the Procedures Committee will enable members to have longer to engage with the candidates.
“By extending the hustings period to Friday 30 September, both candidates can continue to debate their vision for uniting the party, and party conference offers an excellent forum to enable hustings events to reach the maximum membership.
“Finally, by delaying the special conference to Saturday 8 October 2016, our new Leader will be able to have a united team in place ready to fight the Tories before Parliament returns.”