In a heart rending story, left-leaning blog the Skwawkbox reported how Labour have shamefully expelled a 70 year old member with a confirmed diagnosis of bi-polar disorder for a single tweet during a manic episode. A barrister, Duncan Shipley-Dalton has confirmed that this is likely unlawful under the EA 2010 and I agree. As it happens I have a knowledge of political party disciplinary case law and consider that there is also likely a claim in contract law. In this article, I have been sufficiently moved to expand on the barrister’s opinion and offer to help for free.
Firstly, I agree with the barrister that the conduct is indirect discrimination and in any event as he says the current rule book confers no such power. However, I would add that if it did, it would likely fall foul of –
Where expulsions from political parties are litigated, there is also case law requiring clubs and other such organisations to follow their own rules, for example, Lee v Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain  2 QB 329. I also observe that it is particularly disturbing if Labour are using a bot on either Twitter or Facebook to expel people.
The Labour Party is an association for the purposes of the EA (see Part 7). S101 (2) (b) prohibits discrimination by depriving a person of membership. So, which court to sue in? S114 (1) (d) provides that it is the County Court. There is a time limit of 6 months according to s118 (1) (a). However, a court may extend the period if it considers it “just and equitable”. If at any time during the 6 months the Claimant lacked capacity due to (for example) mental illness then the clock would be “stopped” during that period. It looks like that period is coming up fast, so Ayton-Edwards may need to move fast.
The Court with jurisdiction for a breach of contract is also the County Court. A court can order a contracting party to perform the contract (an injunction).
Damages for discrimination can include hurt feelings, which would most likely be the main damages in this case. The levels are calculated via a case called Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  IRLR 102. There is an explanation here. The guidance is for employment tribunals but also applies to the County Court. Damages vary and the highest awards can be in the region of £42,000. There is also a minimum amount of £800. Even victims of minor discrimination should get this minimum.
Simple claims for small amounts of damages can be brought on the small claims track. In the UK, the loser in a County Court claim must pay the other sides costs but for small claims the loser will not normally have to pay costs. A claimant is allowed to deliberately cap the amount sought in a simple claim to put it on the small claims track.
So what is the procedure?
Before commencing a small claim, you have to follow the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct. Basically, you write the other side a letter threatening to sue and asking for a remedy. They have to write back either agreeing or setting out a defence. The penalty for not replying is generally adverse costs.
A claimant should normally give a reasonable period of 14 days for an acknowledgement and up to 3 months for a complex case. If there is a statutory limitation period, the claimant can and should leave time to avoid missing the deadline. This is a straightforward case.
If the Defendant does not reply or does not agree, then the Claimant can fill in this form and send with a fee to the County Court. I consider this claim is simple enough that it can be pleaded in the little box on the form.
I have a Master’s Degree in Law (Commendation) and have passed the LPC, although I have not sought admission as a solicitor via a training contract. For years I have assisted litigants in person as a McKenzie Friend. A McKenzie Friend is someone who can accompany a litigant in person to court and give legal advice per the current Practice Guidance (see paragraph 27). A McKenzie Friend cannot exercise rights of audience nor conduct litigation without permission. I am totally willing to help in this case for free, if no one else has offered.
As an alternative, Clare Ayton-Edwards can just join the Conservative Party. Why should she try to rejoin Labour when they have proven what colossal heels they are? Whilst the Conservative Party does have rules against supporting other parties, its decision making bodies do have discretion and a knowledge of EA. Also, they have a really nice shredder for shredding stupid or disproportionate complaints. I love working shredders. It always turns my frown upside down.