Jeremy Corbyn was jubilant after the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) decided his name should automatically appear on the ballot paper in the leadership contest triggered by Angela Eagle. In a crunch meeting at Labour’s Westminster headquarters that began at 2pm on Tuesday and continued into the evening, NEC members, including Corbyn himself, voted 18-14 in a secret ballot that he was not subject to the rule that forces candidates to show they have the backing of 20% of the party’s MPs and MEPs. However, in a separate decision taken after Corbyn had left the room, the NEC ruled that only those who have been members for more than six months will be allowed to vote – while new supporters will be given two days to sign up as registered supporters to vote in the race, but only if they are willing to pay £25 – far higher than the £3 fee many Corbyn backers paid in the contest last year.
Labour’s membership has shot up to more than 500,000, according to party sources, as both Corbyn’s supporters and those who want to replace him recruit new supporters to their cause. But the introduction of the six-month cut-off point is likely to infuriate members who have joined in recent weeks with the hope of influencing the vote, and will not now be able to do so without paying an additional £25.
After the announcement, a smiling Corbyn emerged to speak to cheering supporters, saying: “I’m on the ballot paper! We will be campaigning on all the things that matter. The inequality and poverty that exists in this country, the need to end the privatisation of our National Health Service, the need to give real hope and opportunity to young people all across this country. That’s what Labour exists for, that’s what we exist for.”
A spokesman said: “The NEC has agreed that as the incumbent leader Jeremy Corbyn will go forward on to the ballot without requiring nominations from the parliamentary Labour party and the European parliamentary Labour party. All other leadership candidates will require nominations from 20% of the parliamentary Labour party and European parliamentary Labour party.”