Tom Gillie successfully represented The Labour Party, defending an application brought by the former Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, for pre-action disclosure in the High Court. The case arose from Mr Corbyn’s suspension from The Labour Party and, subsequently, his suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party. Mr Corbyn sought early disclosure of documents that he alleged would show a ‘deal’ reached between his representatives and the current Leadership of the Labour Party to readmit Mr Corbyn to the Parliamentary Labour Party. Mr Corbyn contended that Sir Keir Starmer, and The Labour Party, had breached the alleged deal. He said that early disclosure was required to plead a case of bad faith in the exercise of The Labour Party’s contractual discretion to suspend his membership of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
The Labour Party denied that any such deal was struck, or that it had acted unlawfully. The Labour Party argued, among other things, that it was not desirable for the Court to order the disclosure sought by Mr Corbyn, first because the disclosure was not required to plead Mr Corbyn’s case, and second because there were no documents evidencing the alleged deal. Sitting in the High Court, Master Sullivan dismissed Mr Corbyn’s application. She ruled that Mr Corbyn had sufficient material to make a decision on the merits of his case and to plead to both aspects of the case he wished to advance: pleading bad faith was not akin to a pleading of fraud, and documentary evidence was not required to do so. Further, the matters raised were not sufficient to depart from the usual course of events. Although there was public interest in the dispute, that did not mean by itself that the ordinary litigation process should not be followed in the same way that it would in cases not involving politicians.
This is a significant interlocutory decision in a very public dispute. It has wider significance for those pursuing applications for pre-action disclosure under Part 31 of the Civil Procedure Rules; mere public interest in a dispute will not be sufficient to take a case ‘out of the normal run’ such that pre-action disclosure is desirable. Nor does the fact an applicant seeks to advance an allegation of bad faith necessitate disclosure before proceedings have started.