Is the Labour Party about to hire an in-house legal team?
To say the Labour Party is currently experiencing a period of uncertainty would be an understatement. Since the EU Referendum, the party has seen mass shadow cabinet resignations from MPs, an ongoing leadership contest and accusations of bullying and harassment.
After Brexit was confirmed, a slew of MPs informed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that they were resigning in an effort to get him to stand down. He refused to capitulate, which led to a vote of a no confidence, and now he must fight Owen Smith for the party’s leadership.
But what does all this have to do with in-house legal? Well, the former director of advocacy group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, has claimed that Labour needs to hire a general counsel and an internal legal panel to help it deal with a range of problems within the party.
Ms Chakrabarti, who authored a report into alleged anti-Semitism within Labour, argued there was a “sheer inadequacy” in the opposition’s in-house capabilities. In fact, the party doesn’t currently have any in-house lawyers.
“While I understand the continuing need to engage a number of varying private practice lawyers to advise on various compliance and other legal issues, it is vital in my view that there is internal legal expertise,” she explained in an inquiry report.
“Not least to give urgent advice, achieve consistency and take responsibility for instructing a range of external lawyers (thus avoiding either favouritism or capture) where appropriate.”
Labour’s legal woes
So, will the Labour Party take Ms Chakrabarti’s advice? It would hardly come as a shock considering that some of Labour’s recent problems have resulted in court cases.
For example, a High Court judgement recently abolished a six-month cut-off period that Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) imposed on members.
The NEC introduced a new rule in July that only people who had been Labour members before January 12th 2016 would be allowed to vote in the leadership contest. However, Justice Hickinbottom described the decision as an “unlawful” breach of contract and rescinded the restriction.
The Labour Party has been granted an appeal, although shadow chancellor John McDonnell discouraged Labour Party colleagues from pursuing the case. He said it would be unfair to use members’ money to fund an appeal that could prevent them from voting.
Nevertheless, with the twists and turns currently occurring in the UK political landscape, the Labour Party may wish to start hiring in-house lawyers and a legal panel sooner rather than later.
Our Market Reports combine our review of the prevailing conditions in the in-house legal recruitment market together with the results of our latest employer survey.
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