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leadership ruling, demands Jeremy Corbyn

fdddJeremy Corbyn today demanded to be named as a co-defendant in a High Court case against Labour’s ruling body over it automatically including him in the leadership contest.

Labour donor Michael Foster launched the legal action after the National Executive Committee voted by 18 to 14 that party leader Mr Corbyn would not need to get the backing of 51 MPs or MEPs to get on the ballot paper, as the other contenders have to.

Labour general secretary Iain McNicol is understood to have received legal advice that Mr Corbyn should not be automatically in the leadership race.

But Mr Corbyn’s allies got at least one legal opinion saying the opposite.

In a sign of deep distrust at the heart of Labour, Mr Corbyn was today set to appeal to the High Court to be a co-defendant in the case being brought by Mr Foster, a former parliamentary candidate.

A Labour source said: “This will prevent Iain McNicol doing a deal with Mr Foster.”

Mr Foster, understood to have given more than £400,000 to the party, has stressed that he wanted to ensure that the rules are properly interpreted and not bent.

But Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has criticised the legal action, saying it was “very unhelpful and destabilising to Labour”, and that the NEC decision should be respected.

The NEC was also meeting today to discuss whether to extend the time for people to be able to register, and pay £25 to take part in the leadership  contest, from 5pm tomorrow.

It was also expected to review new rules which cover including affiliate members in the six-month cut-off period, which means that people who joined the party after January 12 are not able to vote in the leadership contest without re-registering and paying £25.

Leadership challengers Owen Smith and Angela Eagle were today both  racing to get as many MPs to back them, as the one with the least will be under huge pressure to pull out by 5pm tomorrow so there is one “unity”  candidate against Mr Corbyn.

Those publicly backing former shadow business secretary Ms Eagle include Ilford North MP Wes Streeting and Ealing North MP Stephen Pound, while Mr Smith’s backers include Westminster North MP Karen Buck and Harrow West’s Gareth Thomas.

Hackney North MP Diane Abbott is among Mr Corbyn’s supporters.