The High Court has been asked to rule on who controls the organisation representing ethnic minorities in the Labour Party.

Elcena Jeffers, secretary of Black Asian Minority Ethnic Labour (BAME) wants Mr Justice Wyn Williams to grant a declaration to nullify BAME’s January executive election result and an injunction to stop interference with its internal operations.

Her counsel, Ian Macdonald QC, told the judge in London today: “This case is about control - about who controls BAME Labour. Is it the Labour Party National Executive Committee or is it BAME members acting in accordance with their constitution?”

Mr Macdonald said that although Labour had, throughout BAME’s existence, provided administrative assistance, that did not give it carte blanche to take over the main functions of BAME, an independent affiliated organisation.

He said the litigation had been triggered by a BAME executive committee meeting in July 2010, at which there was a row over a motion that its administrative functions should by controlled by BAME rather than Labour Party officers.

This led to complaints by members against BAME’s chairman and the suspension of any BAME executive meetings pending a report.

In November 2010, the suspension was lifted but, on October 26, members of Labour’s NEC had decided on a timetable for BAME’s executive election and a freeze on renewals of membership.

Mr Macdonald said Labour had “no jurisdiction whatsoever” to dictate the election timetable or seek to control membership.

Resisting the claim, Labour’s counsel, Akhlaq Choudhury, said the steps taken by the NEC were “manifestly lawful” and consistent with past practice in 2007 and 2009.

He said the claim was really about an internal dispute within BAME Labour, which manifested itself in July when there was severe disagreement about the way forward between members of the executive.

”The defendant rightly stepped in to bring order to the organisation.”

He said that, having done so lawfully and with the approval of the properly constituted authority of BAME Labour, it was now being sued by another faction within BAME.

If the issue was to be the subject of any action at all, he added, it should be between the members of BAME Labour not against the Labour Party.