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.”