If Angela challenges Corbyn, will Labour’s National Executive Committee change the rules for him?

If Angela Eagle (or another MP) does challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership, can Corbyn be a candidate in the ensuing leadership election even if he fails to get the minimum number of nominations laid down in the party rules?  Does the rule stating the number of nominations required apply to the incumbent leader (Corbyn) or only to his “challengers”? If it applies to him too, will the National Executive Committee (NEC) change the rule to exempt him, as the leader, from the requirement (or to reduce the number of nominations required in order to stand)? Does Corbyn have the numbers on the NEC?  What exactly do the rules say?  If Corbyn does stand in  a fresh leadership election, will the thousands of new, mainly young, members and £3 supporters who helped to vote him into the leadership last September turn out again to vote for him, or are enough of them sufficiently disillusioned by his performance since being elected leader for him to lose?

The answers to these questions will help to determine whether there is a future for the Labour party: whether the party will decline into fringe irrelevance under Corbyn’s continued (or renewed) leadership, or whether it will revive and again offer a credible alternative to a ruined, failed, divided and discredited Tory government which is about to make an unholy mess of the Brexit negotiations unless strongly challenged by a credible Labour opposition under a new leader?  Or will the Labour party formally split, in which case which half will inherit the right to use the party’s Labour label and the party machinery?

I doubt if anyone knows the answers to many of these questions, and most of us can’t confidently answer any of them.  But as an aid to assessing them, here are the relevant rules in the Labour constitution, an out-of-date list of members of the NEC, and links to two articles which provide useful information about some of them.

Labour Party Rule Book 2013
(my emphases)

Chapter 4 Elections of national officers of the party and national committees  

Clause I. General principles

Internal party elections for officer posts and the membership of national committees shall be conducted in a fair, open and transparent manner, in accordance with the constitutional rules of the party and any appropriate NEC guidelines.

Clause II. Procedural rules for elections for national officers of the party


The following procedures provide a rules framework which, unless varied by the consent of the NEC, shall be followed when conducting elections for party officers. The NEC will also issue procedural guidelines on nominations, timetable, codes of conduct for candidates and other matters relating to the conduct of these elections.

[ … ]


In the case of a vacancy for leader or deputy leader, each nomination must be supported by 12.5 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP.  Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.

[Chapter 4, Clause II.B.ii]  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 Commons members of the PLP.  Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.



Membership of the NEC (not up to date; some changes in square brackets):

Leader of the Labour Party   Jeremy Corbyn MP
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party  Tom Watson MP
Treasurer   Diana Holland
Opposition Front Bench    Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
Opposition Front Bench    [Angela Eagle MP]
Opposition Front Bench    Jonathan Ashworth MP
EPLP Leader   Glenis Willmott MEP
Young Labour   Jasmin Beckett
Div. I – Trade Unions  Keith Birch
Div. I – Trade Unions  Jim Kennedy
Div. I – Trade Unions   Andi Fox
Div. I – Trade Unions   Paddy Lillis (Chair)
Div. I – Trade Unions   Wendy Nichols
Div. I -Trade Unions   Andy Kerr
Div. I – Trade Unions  Martin Mayer
Div. I – Trade Unions   Mary Turner
Div. I – Trade Unions  Jennie Formby
Div. I – Trade Unions   Cath Speight
Div. I – Trade Unions  Pauline McCarthy
Div. I – Trade Unions Jamie Bramwell
Div. II – Socialist Societies  James Asser
Div. II – BAME Labour Keith Vaz MP
Div. III – CLPs   [Ken Livingstone]
Div. III – CLPs  Johanna Baxter
Div. III – CLPs  Ann Black
Div. III – CLPs   Ellie Reeves (Vice Chair)
Div. III – CLPs   Christine Shawcroft
Div. III – CLPs   Pete Willsman
Div. IV – Labour Councillors Ann Lucas
Div. IV – Labour Councillors Alice Perry
Div. V – PLP/EPLP   Margaret Beckett MP
Div. V – PLP/EPLP   [Dennis Skinner MP]
Div. V – PLP/EPLP   Shabana Mahmood MP


36 MPs who ‘nominated’ Jeremy Corbyn for leader, June 2015 (minimum then required: 35):

[Some of these made it clear that they would not vote for Mr Corbyn as leader]

 Independent newspaper report on attempts to persuade NEC to change rules to allow Mr Corbyn to stand for re-election without any requirement to win support of a minimum percentage of Labour MPs and MEPs (March 2016):  http://ind.pn/29tsopO  

Pro- and anti-Corbyn balance on the NEC: (LabourList, 4 July 2016) http://bit.ly/29bZmYY 





1 Response

  1. Chris Vine says:

    Thanks for drawing this material together.  What a fine mess.  Reading clause 2.B.ii of chapter 4, for cases where (as here) there is no vacancy, it seems to me that the most natural reading is that the requirement for nominees to have 20% support in the PLP in the Commons applies to challengers and not to the incumbent.  On other hand, in clause 2.C.v of that chapter (voting), references to “each nominee” must to make sense apply to an incumbent leader wishing to stay on.  The powers of the NEC under clause 2.1A (“The following procedures provide a rules framework which, unless varied by the consent of the NEC, shall be followed when conducting elections for party officers.”) are also ambiguous: who proposes variations for the NEC to consent to?  (The separate power to issue procedural guidelines could not in my view be used to settle such points of principle, so the power to vary could be crucial.)

    I hate to spoil your day Brian, but if Corbyn does litigate, it could go on for a while.  I suspect his view is the correct one, but who knows.