Zombie Knives Banned While Labour Party Fights over Conditions of Leadership Election

UK, 25 Jul - 21 Aug 2016
++ Government bans Zombie knives, collector’s items often used as assault weapons ++ Governing body of Labour party wins court appeal to set leadership election conditions. by Alex Braley, Bethany Purrington
Government bans Zombie knives, collector’s items often used as assault weapons

The UK government has introduced legislation banning the sale of zombie knives in England and Wales, with a possible punishment of 4 years in prison for those found selling, manufacturing or importing the knives. The weapons are sold as collectors’ items, inspired by horror films and designed with sharp blades and ornate handles, but are increasingly being used in knife crimes. Last year a London teenager was murdered with a zombie knife and police have noticed the popularity of such knives among gangs, compelling the authorities to enforce a ban.

Whilst certain film and video game genres are often accused of encouraging violent behaviour among young people, the sale of zombie knives blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. The fantasy scenario in question is an apocalyptic world in which a zombie knife would be used to defend the owner against the undead. In reality, the knives can have long serrated edges and cause huge amounts of damage. Furthermore, they have been relatively easy to purchase online for an affordable price with no checks regarding age or suitability to own such a dangerous weapon. In a statement, chief constable of the Ministry of Defence Police Alf Hitchcock said, “These are absolutely horrific weapons for which there can be no legitimate use. You only have to look at the combination of the pointed and serrated edges to see that any injury would be fatal”. This was indeed the case for Stefan Appleton, who died after being stabbed with a zombie knife last year. His attacker was jailed for manslaughter earlier this year.

Although the UK had seen a reduction in knife crime in recent years, last year figures showed an increase in knife crime for the first time since 2010/11. Therefore, it is vital that this legislation has been brought in as a preventative measure, before we see these weapons being used in more violent crimes.

Governing body of Labour party wins court appeal to set leadership election conditions

The court of appeal ruled that the Labour party’s governing body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), could impose a decision to setting criteria that effectively disenfranchises around 130,000 members of voting in the upcoming leadership election. It thereby overturned an earlier High Court ruling annulling the decision.

The case originates from the NEC’s decision to block Labour members who joined after the 12th of January, i.e. members without 6 months’ continuous membership up to 12 July (‘freeze date’), from voting in September’s leadership election – unless such members (or non-members) paid an additional £25 to become “registered supporters” during a window offered by the NEC from 18 to 20 July.

An initially successful crowd-funded legal challenge organised by five of the affected new members followed and the decision was annulled by the High Court on 8 of August. However, in a further twist of events, following an appeal by the NEC, the court of appeal ruled in its favour and upheld the original decision on 12 August, thereby reintroducing the freeze date and ban. In its ruling, the court of appeal referred to parts of the Labour party’s constitution and found that the party had the power “to set the criteria for members to be eligible to vote”. The court of appeal also rejected the members’ application to appeal to the Supreme Court. Although the five affected members could have still appealed to the Supreme Court by directly asking it to consider the case, they decided not to pursue this option due to the high costs involved.

The court of appeal’s ruling means that in the upcoming Labour leadership election, only Labour members who joined before 12 January, members of affiliated unions and registered supporters (including those who took advantage of the aforementioned window for recent members and non-members to pay an additional £25 to become “registered supporters”) are eligible to vote.

Initially the NEC imposed the freeze date to avoid ‘entryism’ (people joining for the sole purpose of voting in the election rather than participating in the party more broadly) which risked undermining or sabotaging the leadership election as well as to reduce the administrative burden of verifying the authenticity of thousands of new members.

The consequences of this saga are fourfold:

Firstly, it has put more pressure on an already strained relationship between the NEC and the party leadership led by Jeremy Corbyn. Whilst the NEC welcomed the ruling, Mr Corbyn’s campaign team described the decision as both legally and democratically wrong.

Secondly, in terms of impact on the Labour leadership contest, the ban is generally thought to favour the challenging candidate Owen Smith. However, Jeremy Corbyn still remains the favourite to win.

Thirdly, it has been a damaging episode of events for the Labour party as a whole, as it is yet again fighting its internal battles in front of the public and media instead of behind closed doors. The fact that such issues are being settled in the courts is also further evidence of the deep divisions and distrust currently engulfing the party and its different factions.

Lastly, whilst it was important to seek clarifications on the High Court’s decision given the wider implications it may have had for the party and the NEC, the bizarre situation of the party using revenue from membership fees to effectively disenfranchise many of them could have longer lasting consequences. Particularly the anti-Corbynites will find it hard to shake off the criticism of disenfranchising people and they may have inflicted potentially fatal damage on the memberships’ trust in them.

UK-2016-8_Knive crimes
Source: Tnoy Webster | CC BY 2.0

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