High Court rejects challenge to Lib Dem MEP selection
The High Court has rejected a challenge brought by an Asian businessman seeking an injunction to grant him first place on the party’s list for the London Constituency in the European Parliament Elections, in a test case on the correct interpretation of the Equality Act 2010, s 104.
Dinesh Dhamija, founder of Ebookers.com, sought to challenge the decision of the Liberal Democrats to disapply positive measures to promote BAME candidates after the Party was advised that they were disproportionate because they risked excluding candidates with other protected characteristics under the 2010 Act. Under the original policy, Mr Dhamija would have been placed first on the list but the Party had decided, following legal advice, that the listing should be based on members’ votes only and Mr Dhamija had come second. Mr Justice Waksman held that the Party’s interpretation of s 104 of the 2010 Act was correct and that its original policy would have been unlawful. The first placed candidate in the members’ vote, Ms Irina Von Wiese, remains first on the London list.
The case is the first of its kind to consider the correct interpretation of the Equality Act 2010, s 104, which prescribes the circumstances in which a political party may take positive measures to promote candidates with protected characteristics. The Court held that s 104 permits positive action only where there is an existing under-representation of that party’s representatives with the relevant protected characteristic in the political body in question, and that any such action must also be proportionate.
Judgment was extempore because the deadline for finalising the lists and nominating candidates was imminent.
Guy Vassall-Adams QC acted for the Liberal Democrats.
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