Labour is spending more than £2m on legal fees every year in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, a senior party official has claimed.
Johanna Baxter, a member of the ruling national executive committee from the party’s pro-Keir Starmer wing, said costs used to be just 10% of that figure ,about £200,000 a year.
Labour is fighting a number of legal battles and has settled some high-profile cases against the party, dating back to disputes during the Corbyn era.
Baxter, who was a member of the NEC under Corbyn before losing her seat in 2016, regained a place on the committee in 2019. She said the dire state of the party’s finances was down to legal battles and said it was vital to repair them so that the public would trust the party with the economy.
“When you hear people talking about the state of the party’s finances, remind them that before Jeremy Corbyn our legal fees were around £200,000 a year. They are now more than £2m a year,” she told a conference rally for the pro-Starmer Labour First group.
“When people talk about cuts to staffing, that’s the reason for it and it’s that mismanagement that has put us in the position we are in today, that this NEC is trying to sort out. And that matters because unless we can sort all of that out, people will not listen to us on the matters that affect them.”
Last year, Starmer ordered the party’s lawyers to reach a settlement with former party staff who spoke to the BBC Panorama programme about antisemitism, who claimed they were defamed in the party’s response to the broadcast.
The party is also facing a bitter legal battle with former staffers who claim private WhatsApp messages were released in the so-called “Labour leaks” report, which was prepared under the former general secretary Jennie Formby.
The report – which was intended for but never submitted to the equalities watchdog’s investigation – alleged staff had worked to undermine Corbyn’s leadership and sent a number of abusive messages about senior figures.
Corbyn himself has said he intends to take legal action against the party over the suspension of the party whip, although his team failed in a preliminary challenge to get documents disclosed that they claimed could prove there was a secret deal to readmit him to the party.
Labour staff have balloted for strike action after David Evans, the general secretary, told staff in July that the party’s management was seeking at least 90 redundancies as it tries to repair finances.
Labour has said it will seek to make the cuts through voluntary redundancies, but the target represents well over a quarter of all the party’s staff.