Jeremy Corbyn will automatically be on the ballot in the upcoming Labour leadership election, after winning a bruising internal battle over an interpretation of the party’s rulebook.
The Labour leader, who has lost the support of almost all of his party’s MPs, faced an attempt to keep him out of the contest by anti-Corbyn factions in the party.
Afterwards Corbyn said he would be campaigning the "length and breadth of the country" and that the campaign would "strengthen our party in order to defeat this Tory government and bring in a government that cares for the people".
The Labour leadership election began on Monday when former shadow minister Angela Eagle launched a formal challenge after receiving the support of 51 Labour MPs, the number required to appear on the ballot paper.
Corbyn’s opponents argued the Labour rulebook meant he would also have to gain the support of 51 MPs if he wanted to take part in the contest, despite his position as the serving party leader.
It was thought he would struggle to hit that target due to the lack of support for him among the parliamentary party.
However, Labour's national executive committee (NEC) – a committee of politicians, trade unionists, and other Labour officials who ultimately run the party – voted by a margin of 18–14 on Tuesday evening to automatically put Corbyn on the ballot.
The six-hour emergency meeting was held at Labour’s HQ in central London, where a small crowd of Corbyn supporters gathered outside to cheer the news.
Eagle said she welcomed the contest: "I'm glad the NEC has come to a conclusion. I welcome the contest ahead and I am determined to win it."
The NEC heard hours of debate and legal advice from top QCs over the interpretation of the Labour rulebook.
Corbyn was at one point asked to leave the room while NEC members discussed his future but ultimately returned and even won the right to vote on his own future.
The result of the secret ballot was released shortly before 8pm on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the pro-Corbyn group Momentum told BuzzFeed News the result was a "victory for democracy".
"Now we go forward with determination, hope, and solidarity to build our movement to transform society in the interests of the overwhelming majority," they said. "The time is now."
Although it is possible the vote could now be challenged by anti-Corbyn factions, it is likely that Labour will spend the summer in another leadership battle between Corbyn, Eagle, and possibly fellow MP Owen Smith.
However, it is likely that the rule that allowed hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters to register and vote in last summer's leadership election for £3 will be tightened up. The NEC is currently deciding on the timeframe for the election and whether to increase the price of becoming a registered supporter to £25, as well as whether to ban all members who joined in the last six months from voting.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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