Corbyn application to force disclosure of documents by Labour unsuccessful

Sienna Rodgers

A bid by Jeremy Corbyn to force the disclosure of Labour Party documents – that the ex-leader’s legal team believed could prove there was a deal around his readmission to the party – was unsuccessful.

The judge concluded that disclosure was not desirable. She stated that Corbyn has “sufficient material to make a decision on the merits of his case” and “can make his case without resort to pre-action disclosure”.

Although the preliminary action was lost by Corbyn’s team, the legal action is not over. It is understood that Corbyn plans to pursue the substantive case, arguing that the suspension of the whip in November was unlawful.

The Islington MP intends to make the case that his further suspension is unlawful as it is in breach of an oral agreement between his representatives and Labour Party staff that was made in two meetings.

His other argument against the Labour Party is that the November suspension of the whip was procedurally unfair because the decision of the national executive committee should have been final.

Commenting on the outcome of the pre-action disclosure application, a Labour spokesperson said: “We welcome the court’s decision. The Labour Party has always acted in line with our rules and procedures.

“It is regrettable that the court’s time and our members money was spent on this matter. We look forward to drawing a line under this matter and uniting our party ahead of a vital set of elections.”

LabourList understands that the party will be seeking to recover its costs from Jeremy Corbyn for the legal expenses that it incurred as a result of the disclosure application.

Corbyn’s barrister told a High Court hearing on January 18th that there were “drafts and redrafts” of a statement enabling Corbyn’s readmission exchanged between his representatives and Keir Starmer’s allies.

In the second statement, released via Facebook on the morning of Labour’s ruling body concluding Corbyn’s disciplinary case, Corbyn had said: “I regret the pain this issue has caused the Jewish community”.

He clarified his previous comments, which had led to his original suspension, about the scale of antisemitism within Labour being overstated. His lawyer Christopher Jacobs said this clarification was arranged with Labour staff.

But the Labour Party maintains that there was no deal or agreement struck over Corbyn’s readmission to the party. The lawyer instructed by the party in Corbyn v Evans, Rachel Crasnow QC, said there was “no agreement”.

The QC also told the hearing that there were “no notes” and “no minutes” from the meeting attended by Starmer, Angela Rayner, Morgan McSweeney, Unite’s Len McCluskey and Jon Trickett MP soon after Corbyn’s suspension.

Corbyn allies claimed that this meeting later led to an agreement on the wording of Corbyn’s clarification statement, posted ahead of his readmission to Labour, and to an agreement that “no further sanction was to be imposed”.

The former Labour leader’s legal team submitted a pre-action disclosure application because they said the documents revealed would be a “vital ingredient” in their case and save costs (as the case would otherwise have to be amended).

But the bid to reveal Labour documents – said by Corbyn’s team to include emails and messages about the statement and process for readmitting him to the party – was lost by the MP, it was revealed today.

On Corbyn’s efforts to seek documents relating to alleged third party interference in particular, the judge said they were “speculation based on press reporting”, adding: “It seems to me that the request is indeed fishing.”

The former Labour leader is a party member but currently sits as an Independent MP because the whip has been suspended for three months pending an investigation conducted under Parliamentary Labour Party rules.

Corbyn was suspended in October after claiming that “the scale of the problem was… dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents”, but was reinstated as a member by Labour’s ruling body in November.

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