Jeremy Corbyn has won a High Court battle over whether he is automatically on the ballot paper in the Labour Party’s leadership election.
The decision on Thursday afternoon means Corbyn, as the incumbent, does not need to secure nominations from 51 MPs and MEPs in order to fight off the challenge from Owen Smith.
Smith, the former shadow work and pensions secretary, had to win the backing of MPs to get on to the ballot.
Corbyn welcomed the court’s decision, denouncing the case as “a waste of time and resources”.
Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol said: “We are delighted that the Court has upheld the authority and decision of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. We will continue with the leadership election as agreed by the NEC.”
And Smith said he was “pleased the court has done the right thing and ruled Jeremy Corbyn should be on the ballot”.
Earlier this month, NEC members wrestled with legal advice for six hours over whether Corbyn would need to secure the backing of 20% of Labour MPs to make it on to the ballot paper after both sides insisted the party rule book backed their case.
The NEC eventually decided Corbyn would automatically get onto the ballot without having to win nominations.
Labour donor Michael Foster, a former parliamentary candidate, brought the claim at London’s High Court against McNicol and Corbyn. Foster wanted to reverse the NEC’s decision.
Given his unpopularity among Labour MPs, it is seen as unlikely that Corbyn would have been able to secure the 51 nominations necessary. In 2015, Corbyn only just scraped onto that year’s leadership ballot with the required number of nominations at the last minute.
Corbyn said today: “There should have been no question of the right of half a million Labour Party members to choose their own leader being overturned.
“If anything, the aim should be to expand the number of voters in this election. I hope all candidates and supporters will reject any attempt to prolong this process, and that we can now proceed with the election in a comradely and respectful manner.”
The judge in the case ruled Foster will have to pay the legal costs for both Corbyn and the Labour Party.