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What really happened at the NEC

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves Labour HQ on Tuesday evening. Credit: PA

I have now spoken to more Labour people about what happened at the NEC between 2pm and 9.30pm (with no break for food). And I now realise that my earlier description of it as an omni-shambles was generous.

The first six hours of discussion was all about whether Corbyn should automatically be on the ballot - with a whole series of prior votes on which lawyers' views should be seen and heard and whether the votes should be secret.

One of my sources said those who oppose Corbyn have been subject to frightening intimidation and abuse. So it was vital that the names of those voting against him should not go on the public record.

In the end, the NEC voted to vote in secret. And then it secretly voted that Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot.

The window of Angela Eagle's constituency office in Wallasey was smashed on Tuesday. Credit: PA

And then it became clear that the secrecy was pointless, because all the union representatives voted as per the way they had been mandated to do, and in favour of Corbyn. So Corbyn loyalists will know exactly who went against their will.

The anti-Corbynistas on the NEC tell me they are bracing themselves for terrible social media bullying, and abusive texts.

However in the final hour the Corbynistas, so cock-a-hoop at their victory, took their eye off the ball. And they didn't stick around to prevent the burial of Ed Miliband's scheme to allow a vote to those paying just £3.

The price of the vote has been hiked to £25 - and there are only two days to buy the vote in that way and become a so-called registered supporter.

Jeremy Corbyn stops to have a photo taken with supporters. Credit: Reuters

The Corbynistas were also unable to prevent the exclusion from the leadership vote of all proper members who joined less than six months ago.

I am told this six-month threshold for voting has long been the norm for most Labour votes - though it was suspended for last summer's leadership poll that ushered in Corbyn.

So, on reflection, whether you see the reversion to a more conservative voting system as gerrymandering will depend - obvs - on whether you are with Corbyn or against. Since it was the Miliband "democratic revolution", now overturned, that brought in Corbyn as leader.

Owen Smith, speaking at the Labour Party conference in 2015. Credit: PA

The practical consequence of all these NEC shenanigans however are to strengthen Corbyn and weaken that large majority of Labour MPs who want him out.

A contest between Corbyn and Angela Eagle looks inevitable - although I would not yet rule out Owen Smith having a tilt as the candidate to the left of Eagle and the right of Corbyn.

There will be more soap opera to come before we knows whether there is any chance of Labour surviving in anything like its traditional form.

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