ANNA Turley had links to a WhatsApp group of Labour MPs opposed to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, a High Court judge has been told.

Mr Justice Nicklin heard that the group was known as the Birthday Club.

Detail of Ms Turley's links to the Birthday Club emerged at a High Court libel trial on Monday after she sued the Unite union over a blog article relating to an application she made for union membership.

Ms Turley, who was Labour MP for Redcar, says the article, which contained a press statement from Unite, on the Skwawkbox blog libelled her.

She has also sued Stephen Walker, a journalist who writes, edits and publishes Skwawkbox, and says Unite also misused her private information.

Unite and Mr Walker are fighting the case.

A barrister representing Unite said Ms Turley had applied for "Community" membership of Unite - a category aimed at people not in paid employment.

Anthony Hudson QC said her application, in December 2016, flowed from a discussion on the Birthday Club WhatsApp group.

Mr Hudson said the Birthday Club members had come together to oppose Mr Corbyn's leadership and had a membership of about 50 three years ago.

He said Ruth Smeeth, who was then Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North and is due to give evidence at the trial, had circulated a link to Birthday Club members about a Unite general secretary election.

"Discussions took place in that WhatsApp group about joining Unite with a view to voting against Len McCluskey, and doing so without being noticed," said Mr Hudson.

"(Ms Turley) wanted to join Unite without being noticed and without (Unite) knowing that she was an MP."

He suggested that Ms Turley had been part of an attempt to "oust" Mr McCluskey and that the ultimate aim had been to "oust" Mr Corbyn as Labour leader.

Mr Hudson said "for some reason", Ms Turley held Mr McCluskey in contempt.

"(Ms Turley's) claim raises important issues about the right to freedom of speech of a trades union affiliated to the Labour Party and a political blog in the context of statements made by them about the conduct of a (then) Member of Parliament and her decision covertly to join Unite ... so that she could vote against the general secretary of that union with a view to trying to undermine Unite's support for the leader of her political party and the leader of the opposition, with the ultimate aim of trying to remove and replace the leader of her party," said Mr Hudson.

"(Her) claim is a direct and unjustified attack on such protected speech.

"Moreover, (she) has acted dishonestly and deceitfully in her conduct of this litigation by lying about the circumstances in which she came to join Unite and then trying to cover up those lies."

The Birthday Club has featured in media reports for more than two years.

"Labour MPs from the party's right have, for much of the Corbyn era, been part of a group on the instant messaging service WhatsApp called Birthday Club," said a New Statesman article in August 2018.

"There, they commiserate over the state of British politics, their casework load and their objections to the shadow cabinet. (The group was originally created to plan for a member's birthday, hence the name.)"