Corbyn loses bid for disclosure of Labour documents

Ex-party leader is hoping to prove a deal to readmit him after downplaying antisemitism was broken


Jeremy Corbyn has lost his bid to have Labour Party documents disclosed ahead of an expected High Court claim over his suspension.

In a ruling on Wednesday afternoon, Judge Lisa Sullivan dismissed the ex-leader’s application and said: “Mr Corbyn has sufficient material to make a decision on the merits of his case.”

Concluding the ruling after Mr Corbyn's pre-trial disclosure appliocation, Master Sullivan said:"Stepping back and looking at the matter in the round, and taking into account the overriding objective, I do not accept pre-action disclosure is desirable.

"Mr Corbyn has sufficient material to make a decision on the merits of his case and to plead to both arms of the case he wishes to advance. The matters raised are not sufficient to depart from the usual course of events and I refuse the application."

The ex leader's lawyers  had said they believed the documents would help with case to show that an agreement, made with the consent of Sir Keir Starmer, to fully readmit him to the party following his suspension for downplaying antisemitism under his leadership had been broken.

Labour's QC  had denied in court that any such deal existed.

But the judge said:"The only way it is said that the dispute would be resolved or costs saved in respect of the oral agreement is if the documents show an agreement in the terms alleged by Mr Corbyn.

"I cannot make any judgment about what any documents might show and I take at face value the Labour Party’s case that there was no such agreement. I cannot say that there is a real prospect that disclosure would resolve or reduce the issues. That dispute is likely to remain after disclosure."

It wasalso stated:"The fact that Mr Corbyn’s representatives did not make any notes but they believe the Labour Party did does not give rise in my judgment to the sort of asymmetry of control of documents which would mean pre-action disclosure was desirable.

"His representatives could have made notes but did not. This is not a situation where one party was unable to document the oral agreement which might give rise to such asymmetry."

At a hearing earlier this month, Mr Corbyn’s barrister Christopher Jacobs argued that Labour “went behind an agreement” to reinstate him to the party as a result of “political interference”.

He had told the court that Mr Corbyn’s suspension was unlawful and in breach of contract, and that the MP needed “pre-action disclosure” ahead of an “anticipated claim” against the party.

The former leader of the opposition was said to considering legal action against the party over his suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party last October in response to a statement he issued following the EHRC report into Labour antisemitism.

He  had claimed that the scale of antisemitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” in a statement on his Facebook site.

Mr Corbyn was suspended from the party but then allowed to rejoin, but not to sit as a Labour MP.

His lawyers have said he is considering legal action against Labour in order to secure “an injunction to restore the whip immediately.”

They were seeking disclosure of evidence relating to claims that Sir Keir Starmer  had been influenced into removing the whip from Mr Corbyn  by “third party interventions” from the Board of Deputies and the MP Dame Margaret Hodge.

At the earlier pre-trial application hearing, Mr Jacobs told Judge Sullivan that meetings held on October 30 were attended by Sir Keir, his deputy Angela Rayner, chief of staff  Morgan McSweeney, Unite’s Len McCluskey and Jon Trickett MP.

“My instructions are that meeting led to the agreed wording of the clarified statement being accepted as an acceptable outcome and an agreement that no further sanction was to be imposed,” said Mr Jacobs.

“Disclosure will enable (Corbyn) to say there was procedural unfairness and a breach of duty to act in good faith”, said Mr Jacobs.  

Rachel Crasnow QC, acting for the Labour, said the party had already provided “adequate disclosure” by handing over a series of documents relating to the case, including evidence from the disciplinary hearing that recommended he was reinstated to the party.

She said that there were “no notes” and “no minutes” from the meetings with Mr Corbyn’s representatives,  adding that “there was no agreement in any event.”

She accused Mr Corbyn’s legal team of exercising a “fishing expedition” and a “change of tack” in his battle to overturn his continued suspension as a party MP.

A Labour party spokesperson welcomed Wednesday’s decision, adding: “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.”


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