Richard Willis's Blog

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Phil Woolas Suspended By Labour

Following the news this morning that Labour MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth Phil Woolas (left) was found by two judges to have lied about his opponent during the General Election campaign in order to obtain electoral advantage, the Labour leadership has acted to suspend Mr Woolas’s membership of the Labour Party.

It is worth noting however, that despite knowing about the case against Woolas, new Labour leader Ed Miliband appointed him to the Labour front bench as a shadow Home Office Minister. As well as being poor judgement on Miliband’s part, it is also ironic that the Home Office is responsible for law enforcement and immigration. Today Mr Woolas was found to have broken electoral law in a quite disgraceful and scurrilous manner. On three counts he was found to have lied about Elwyn Watkins his Lib Dem opponent. The specially-convened election court had heard that Mr Woolas stirred up racial tensions in a desperate bid to retain his seat in Oldham East and Saddleworth. His campaign team was said to have set out to “make the white folk angry” by depicting an alleged campaign by Muslims to “take Phil out”. And this in a constituency where the BNP has performed well in the past!

In Reading we have seen similar tactics from Labour in the past when they have blatantly lied about Conservative, Lib Dem and Green policies and of course there was the famous case of postal vote fraud in Redlands ward. I have Labour leaflets in my archive that show how low they will sink in an attempt to cling onto power in Reading. Worryingly there are signs that they are dusting off the same tactics already in advance of next May’s local elections. Their prime targets seem to be the Lib Dems but the Conservatives are not immune from the smears.

The tactics employed by Woolas should have no place in politics and I hope that criminal charges against him are considered for stirring up racial hatred. The Labour Party condemnation today has been muted. Can you imagine what they would have been saying if it was a Conservative MP that had been found guilty in the same circumstances?

As a result of the court ruling Woolas automatically lost his seat in the Commons and may be barred from public office for three years. He has announced his intention to seek a judicial review of the decision. On Monday the Speaker will rule on when a by-election will take place with many commentators expecting it to be on 2 December.

This case could prove very damaging for Labour as it will remind the public of the sleaze that characterised the last half of Gordon Brown’s premiership and result in a by-election that Labour could very well lose to either the Lib Dems or Conservatives. However, despite the damage to Labour I do hope that it is a wake-up call for some in their party and that as a result British politics will be conducted in a more civilised way in future.

UPDATE: Tonight the Conservative Party Chairman Sayeda Warsi has written to Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman to ask a series of questions about the involvement of the Labour London HQ in the production of Phil Woolas’s literature:

“Today’s court ruling found that Labour MP and Labour Shadow Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, breached election laws by falsely claiming his Liberal Democrat opponent had ‘wooed’ extremist Muslims. The case focused on a series of racially charged leaflets distributed by Mr Woolas’s campaign team. 

“As a matter of significant public interest, I would urge the Labour Party to answer the following questions:

  • Was the literature distributed by Mr Woolas’s campaign team approved by the Labour Party’s headquarters?
  • Who knew about the content of the literature distributed by Mr Woolas’s campaign within the Labour Party headquarters?
  • Who in Labour Party headquarters was responsible for signing off Mr Woolas’s literature?
  • What action is the Party planning to take against those involved in the production of this literature, both locally and centrally, in light of today’s ruling?  

“You will share with me a concern over the seriousness of the judgement against Mr Woolas and the impact it could have on communities in this country. I trust that you will therefore treat answering the above questions as a matter of the utmost urgency.”

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November 5, 2010 - Posted by | National

9 Comments »

  1. I quote from the CCEA Scrutiny Panel Minutes of 23.3.05, taken from the Council’s website.

    “Postal Vote Investigation in Redlands Ward

    J Painter provided clarification of recent press reports regarding the investigation into postal voting irregularities in Redlands Ward at the 2004 Municipal Elections. He stated that the investigation had looked at 455 postal applications across the Borough, a 5% sample, including a higher sample of 50 (7.2%) in Redlands Ward, where the only evidence of irregularities had been found. The results of the investigation had been passed to the police in July 2004, and their investigation had focussed on 14 properties and 46 electors in Redlands Ward.

    A total of 2,357 votes had been cast in the Ward, including 701 postal votes. The difference between the number of votes cast for the third successful candidate and the number cast for the fourth (and unsuccessful) candidate was 283 votes, and the Council was therefore satisfied that the postal vote irregularities did not have an impact on the results of the election.

    The police investigation, while finding irregularities, had concluded that the information uncovered did not lead to anyone in respect of whom criminal proceedings could be considered.”

    My recollection, which may be faulty, is that the scrutiny panel were told that the police looked at rather more Redlands postal votes than just the original sample of 50.

    And then from the 27.9.2006 CCEA Minutes

    “The report gave details of work carried out on the issue of fraud, in particular regarding postal votes. The main area of interest had concerned complaints made by both the Conservative and Labour parties about activities of voters in the Asian (predominantly Pakistani) community in Park ward. Eight specific incidents had been reported concerning people from the local Asian community calling at the complainant’s address to collect postal votes. However, J Painter reported that all complaints had been investigated in conjunction with the Council’s Internal Audit Service and he was confident that there had been no underlying fraud.”

    All and any fraud is unacceptable, but the minutes above illustrate the scale in Reading. The law regarding validating postal votes changed after 2004 to require a signature at the time of application and another one at the time of casting a postal ballot, and the right of the ERO to reject the ballot if the signatures do not match.

    None of this is in any way comparable to the Phil Woolas affair, on which the Labour Party national leadership has acted promptly. Baroness Warsi is indulging in cheap point-scoring with her questions – did Conservative Central Office sign off all your literature in 2005? Or see it all? No, of course not, just your local Election Agent.

    Comment by Christine | November 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Christine – in a General Election campaign some of the locally distributed literature is authorised through the central HQ and sent to centrally approved printers. If it was as you say in Old & Sad then it should be pretty easy for Harman to respond to Warsi and clear up the outstanding questions as to what the Central HQ knew about Woolas’s literature both before and after its production!

      Comment by Richard Willis | November 6, 2010 | Reply

  2. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke. The Labour party are well rid of him.

    Comment by Phil the Greek | November 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. I won’t comment on Warsi’s latest cretinisms as the woman needs a break.
    Thank God Woolas is gone. And that is not a “muted” Labour Party response. The man has always been dodgy, bordering on racist to gain electoral advantage, and now it seems he is also a liar. Interesting to see the difference between him and Margaret Hodge and John Cruddas in their seats to the threat of racial disharmony.
    You call Ed Miliband’s judgment into question about his appointment to the front bench – fair comment. But Phil was one of the most ardent and fervent suporters of Brother Dave, indeed standing in for him on occasions at hustings. Ed’s appointing him was a sop to the Blairistas, and I imagine he’s pleased this w****r has gone.
    Politicalbetting.com has Labour at 1/3 to win the by-election.

    Comment by Jonny | November 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Jonny – a very definite response!

      So tell me this, why did your new leader appoint this “dodgy”, “liar” to the Labour front bench? He must have known the nature of the allegations against him!

      Comment by Richard Willis | November 6, 2010 | Reply

  4. Nice use of qoutation marks, “Batman”. Ed appointed him, I guess, because he was powerful in Blairista circles, as I thought was clear from my first comment.
    Why does the Tory Party continue to use the “dodgy” “liar” Baroness Warsi as a spokesperson ?

    Comment by Jonny | November 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Jonny – the quotations were from your description of the man, a view obviously not shared by Ed Miliband!!

      In what way is Baroness Warsi “dodgy” or a “liar”? I am not aware that she has been found guilty of such attributes by a court of law.

      Comment by Richard Willis | November 6, 2010 | Reply

      • I was trading quotation marks with you. She’s dodgy because of the funding for her failed election campaign in Dewsbury in 2005, and she’s a liar as she claimed the 2000 Act equalising the age of consent between heterosexual and homosexual relationships would mean that homosexuality would be “peddled” (sic) to schoolchildren.
        You and I, of course, are as pure as driven snow that has an extra layer of Dulux gloss white on top.

        Comment by Jonny | November 7, 2010

  5. Woolas is a complete disgrace to politics. Good on Harman for speaking up. It is just a shame that most of her party dont seem to agree with her.

    Comment by Doodlebug | November 10, 2010 | Reply


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