High Court (Admin) confirms that the Conservative Party is not susceptible to judicial review. Court rejects Tortoise Media’s application for permission to apply for JR.
The High Court (Admin) has refused Tortoise Media’s application for permission to apply for judicial review of the Conservative Party's decision to refuse to provide information about its membership during its leadership election in Summer 2022 which led to the election of Liz Truss as party leader.
The challenge made significant claims about the legal status of political parties and their obligations. The Claimant sought to establish that political parties are public bodies subject to public law, and also required to provide access to internal information under the Human Rights Act, despite Parliament’s decision not to include them in the Freedom of Information Act.
Mrs Justice Lang DBE held that the grounds of challenge had no realistic prospects of success. The ruling confirms previous decisions that “the Conservative party itself (unlike those of its members who are elected to Parliament or who hold government office) performs no public function.”
The decision points out that the appointment of the Prime Minister is within the royal prerogative and the Conservative party does not have powers in this regard. It follows that the election of a party leader, even where the person elected is likely to become Prime Minister, is not a public function which could be subject to review.
The judge agreed with the Conservative party that “As [it] is not a public body, nor exercising public functions, it is not susceptible to judicial review on public law grounds such as a failure to take into account relevant considerations.”
The applicant's argument that the Conservative party was subject to the Human Rights Act 1998 was also refused. The Court held it was unarguable that the Defendant is a public authority or performing an act of a public nature for the purposes of the Act.
The decision also confirms that there is no right to obtain information under the European Convention on Human Rights in these circumstances, in line with Supreme Court authority in Kennedy v Charity Commission  UKSC 20.
Richard Price OBE KC and Kevin Brown acted for the Conservative party, instructed by Tom Spiller OBE of Rosenblatt.