Lewis v Heffer

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLORD JUSTICE ORMROD,LORD JUSTICE GEOFFREY LANE
Judgment Date25 January 1978
Judgment citation (vLex)[1978] EWCA Civ J0125-2
Docket Number1977 L. No. 3369
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Date25 January 1978
Julian Murray Lewis
Plaintiff (Appellant)
and
Eric Heffer and Alex Kitson (on behalf of and as representing the Organisation Committee of the Labour Party)
First Defendants (Respondents)
and
Joan Lester, Norma Atkinson, Ian Mikardo, Frank Allaun, Nick Bradley and Joan Maynard (on behalf of and as representing the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party
Second Defendants (Respondent)
and
Ron Hayward, Reginald Underhill, John Keys and William Arthur Jones (on behalf of and as representing the paid administrative servants of the Labour Party)
Third Defendants (Respondents)
Paul Martin Mccormick
Plaintiff (Appellant)
and

Eric Heffer and Alex Kitson (on behalf of and as representing the Organisation Committee of the Labour Party)
First defendants (Respondents)
and
Joan Lester, Norman Atkinson, Ian Mikardo, Frank Allaun, Nick Bradley and Joan Maynard (on behalf of and as representing the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party)
Second Defendants (Respondents)
and
Ron Hayward, Reginall Underhill, John Keys and William Arthur Jones (on behalf of and as representing the paid administrative servants of the Labour Party)
Third Defendants (Respondents)
John Murray Lewis (on behalf of and as representing all members of Newham North-East Constituency Labour Party)
Plaintiff (Appellant)
and
Alex Kitson
Ian Mikardo
Joan Lester
First Defendants
Eric Hefner
(Respondents)
Frank Allaum
Nick Bradley
Joan Maynard

and

Norman Atkinson
and
Ron Hayward
Reginall Underhill John Keys and William Arthur Jones (representing the paid administrative servants of the Labour Party)
Second Defendants (Respondents)

[1978] EWCA Civ J0125-2

Before:

The Master of The Rolls

(Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Ormrod and

Lord Justice Geoffrey Lane

1977 L. No. 3369
1977 M. No. 5275
1977 L. No.3135

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

On Appeal from The High Court of Justice

Queen's Bench Division

MR. G. GODFREY, Q.C. and MR. S. McKINNON (instructed by Messrs. Trower, Still & Keeling, Solicitors, London) appeared on behalf of the Plaintiff (Appellant).

MR. C. DEHN, Q.C. and MR. C. CARR (instructed by Messrs. Milners, Curry & Gaskell, Solicitors, London) appeared on behalf of the Defendants (Respondents).

THE PLAINTIFF (Appellant) appeared in person.

MR. C. DEHN, Q.C. and MR. C. CARR (instructed by Messrs. Milners, Curry & Gaskell, Solicitors, London) appeared on behalf of the Defendants (Respondents).

THE PLAINTIFF (Appellant) appeared in person

MR. C. DEHN, Q.C. and MR. C. CARR (instructed by Messrs. Miners, Curry & Gaskell, Solicitors, London) appeared on behalf of the Defendants (Respondents).

1

This is an urgent case. So we must proceed to give judgment at once. There is a struggle for power in a Parliamentary constituency. It is within the local constituency Labour Party at Newham North- East. There are two factions within that party. Each is striving for the mastery of the General Meeting of the local party: for it is the local General Meeting which has the management of its affairs. Whichever faction gets the mastery of the local General Meeting selects the Parliamentary candidate for the constituency. It selects of course a man of its own way of thinking. It is a safe Labour seat. So the faction which wins will have a representative in Parliament. He will there propagate its ideas. And, if there are other members of Parliament of like mind, he will, with them, be able to put their objectives into operation. This local struggle may have its counterpart in other constituencies. So the outcome may influence the standing of the Labour Party in Parliament: and thus affect the policies of Parliament itself. Hence its importance.

2

The struggle, as I have said, is for the mastery of the local General Meeting of the local Constituency Labour Party. So I must tell how it is convened. There are within Newham North- East a number of small branches of the Labour Party. They send delegates to the local General Meeting. There are other organisations, such as trade unions, which also send delegates. The rules prescribe the number of delegates to the local General Meeting. Usually there are only about 150 to 200 delegates present. Some favour one faction. Others the other. They are fairly evenly divided. So a switch over of a few delegates may alter the whole pattern of voting. Each faction strives hard, therefore, to increase its own delegates and reduce those of the other faction.

3

Each faction has done this to some extent by "infiltration". That is, the faction will bring in a newcomer to live in the constituency. He joins the local Constituency Labour Party. He is active as a branch member and becomes a delegate for a branch. Other newcomers do the same. Just a handful of such newcomers may make all the difference to the voting and to the result. In Newham North- East the struggle became acute when one faction sought to replace the existing member of Parliament Mr. Prentice by one of its own persuasion. It appeared to have control and was likely to get its own way. The other faction then resorted to legal means to prevent it. That is where our story starts.

4

The struggle became so intense that the national party intervened in the shape of the National Executive Committee. It suspended all the officers and committees of the local party and took over control itself. And that is the point we have now reached. One faction says that that suspension was invalid. It was beyond the powers of the National Executive Committee to intervene in this way. Is that correct or not? That is the question which we have to deal with.

5

but, before coming to it, I must describe the course of the struggle over the past year. It is bound to come up in the many pieces of litigation now before the court. So it may be helpful if I describe it now.

6

1. THE TWO FACTIONS

7

The two factions call themselves names which are of a pejorative character. The name which one faction gives itself is the "Moderates". It calls the other faction the "Left-wingers". I will not use those names because they are tendentious. I will call the two factions by the names of the two young men who are prominent in them. They are two young men who were both educated at the Swansea Grammar School. They areboth members of the Labour Party. But they have conflicting views as to what should be its objectives. One of them is Julian Lewis. He is a student of philosophy and is writing a thesis for a doctorate. I will call his faction the "Lewis faction". The other is Andrew Bevan. He is the National Youth Officer at the Labour Party Headquarters at Transport House. I will call his faction the "Bevan faction". Both of them went to live in Newham North- East a year or two ago. Both are members of the Newham North- East Labour Party. But there is another young man who fights hard for the Lewis faction. He is Paul McCormick. He is a Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. He lives in Oxford and is a member of the Oxford Labour Party. But he acts as "constitutional adviser" to the Lewis faction in Newham North- East.

8

Each faction pours obloquy on the other. The Lewis faction reproaches the Bevan faction with being extremists and says of them, and I am quoting from Mr. McCormick's affidavit: "The Constituency Labour Party has a strong contingent of extremists who have moved into the constituency over the last 2-3 years, infiltrated it, turned out its M.P., and driven its old stalwarts from office replacing them with Marxists".

9

The Bevan faction reproaches the Lewis faction as being disrupters and says of them, and I am quoting from one of the reports: "Litigation had been used to gain political control. The issue of writs was destroying the party. The members responsible for the legal actions must be expelled".

10

Disputes on these lines have gone on elsewhere. It has caused much anxiety to those in charge of the National Labour Party. These anxieties are well expressed in an affidavit which has been made by Mr. Underhill, one of the chief officers of the National Labour Party. He describes what is happening in thesewords: "These facts do mean that a determined group, acting in concert, can win control of branches or even of a CLP (Constituency Labour Part). I and all the other Labour Party officials share Mr. Lewis' anxiety about it. I and they have made literally thousands ox speeches about it all over the country urging local party officials and members to increase recruitment and to maintain a high membership so that the risk of a 'take-over' by an organised group is minimised. I am quite sure that it would be an instinctive and basic reaction of every NEC (National Executive Committee) member and party official that such a takeover by any group - left or right - would be wholly undesirable. Such a thing has occurred from time to time in the past and when it has occurred, the NEC have stopped the CLP functioning and have re-organised and re-established the CLP".

11

Now for the story over the last year in Newham North- East.

12

I will describe it in terms of a war, for so it is.

13

2. THE BATTLE OVER THE GENERAL MEETING OF 23rd FEBRUARY, 1977.

14

On the 23rd February, 1977 the local Constituency Labour Party was to hold its local Annual Meeting. At that meeting there was important business to be done, namely, to elect the officers to the local General Committee and the local Executive Committee for the coming year. It looked as if the Bevan faction would be in the majority and get their own way. But the Lewis faction on the 22nd February, 1977 issued a writ claiming that the meeting had not been properly convened. They went before Mr. Justice Stocker. He granted an ex parte injunction to stop the meeting. The injunction was served at the meeting, just after it had begun. So the meeting broke up without any business being done. The Bevan faction sought to discharge the injunction but it was upheld by Mr. Justice...

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