Labour member to challenge party ban on contesting NI elections

David Young, PA
·2-min read

A legal bid has been initiated challenging the UK Labour Party’s refusal to stand candidates in Northern Ireland.

Keith Gray, a Labour member from Belfast, has issued pre-action correspondence to the party.

The pre-action protocol letter formally puts the party on notice that High Court proceedings will be pursed if it does not change its long-standing position on running in Northern Ireland elections.

Labour has long resisted calls from Northern Ireland-based members to allow them to contest elections in the region.

The party has argued that it should not fight contests against its “sister party” the SDLP.

Mr Gray, who is vying to become secretary of the Labour Party NI next month, alleges the policy discriminates against him as a subscription-paying member of the Labour Party.

The 42-year-old’s Belfast-based solicitors KRW Law have sent the pre-action protocol letter to Labour Party General Secretary David Evans.

It alleges the party is in breach of its contract with Mr Gray on the grounds of discrimination and is acting in bad faith in not fielding candidates at elections in Northern Ireland.

Keith Gray (Keith Gray/PA)
Keith Gray (Keith Gray/PA)

It further contends that the Labour policy is also in breach of elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Gray, who is from east Belfast, has cerebral palsy and fibromyalgia.

“I am a proud member of the Labour Party,” he said.

“I want to be able to elect Labour Party candidates to local councils, Stormont and Westminster. I want to be able to put myself up for candidature. The SDLP is not a ‘sister-party’, as the NEC and leadership say it is.

“SDLP policies are not the policies of the Labour Party. For too long members of the Labour Party have been discriminated against and the trust between them and the Labour Party has been broken. Now is the time for a challenge.”