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Majority of Northern Ireland Labour members back Jeremy Corbyn as legal case over exclusion of voters is dropped

By Arj Singh

Published 15/08/2016

Jeremy Corbyn has been backed by the Labour Party in Northern Ireland
Jeremy Corbyn has been backed by the Labour Party in Northern Ireland

Labour members in Northern Ireland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of Jeremy Corbyn's nomination as party leader in the forthcoming leadership election.

Labour Party in Northern Ireland chairwoman Anna McAleavy announced the local result as it emerged that Labour's national leadership election will go ahead with the exclusion of around 130,000 new members after five of them dropped their legal challenge against the decision to bar them.

Speaking after the weekend vote at the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast, Ms McAleavy said: "The debate yesterday morning was both frank and friendly.

"When it came to a vote, the figures speak for themselves - 121 of those eligible to vote backed Jeremy Corbyn as leader, 33 thought that the CLP should remain neutral, and 14 voted in favour of Owen Smith MP.

"We will be in touch with the UK Labour Party to inform them of this vote."

Elsewhere, the Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a previous judgment and therefore reinstated the decision of Labour's ruling body to exclude those who had not joined the party by January 12 and held membership continuously until July 12 - the "freeze date".

Many of the members affected are believed to back leader Jeremy Corbyn and the five who brought the initial legal challenge to the High Court have said they will not seek to overturn the appeal court's decision in the Supreme Court.

The five - Christine Evangelou, Rev Edward Leir, Hannah Fordham, Chris Granger and "FM", a teenage member - have raised £93,572 in donations but said they could not afford to take the case further.

Ms Fordham said the money raised would cover their legal fees and the £30,000 in costs they were ordered to pay to the NEC, which brought the case.

It is understood that the Supreme Court was preparing to hear the case tomorrow and making urgent arrangements to pull back five justices during summer recess.

The exclusion of the new members is thought to benefit Mr Smith and Mr Corbyn's campaign team reacted furiously to the news on Friday, with John McDonnell accusing the NEC of undermining democracy.

Speaking before the case was dropped, Mr Corbyn would not explicitly back the position of Labour general secretary Iain McNicol, who led the appeal.

He told the Observer: "People joined the Labour Party in order to take part in the party and were specifically told that they were able to vote in the leadership election and it was decided by the High Court that they could."

The leader went on: "We will receive a report from Iain about the process that has gone on over the last few months. And the NEC will no doubt ask him questions and he will probably give answers on it. But let's look at that when the new NEC takes over."

Asked twice if he had full confidence in Mr McNicol, Mr Corbyn repeatedly stated: "I have been happy to work with Iain McNicol since I became leader."

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