I've long highlighted the disgraceful election campaign run by the Labour MP Phil Woolas and, today, he's finally paid the price. A specially convened court has found him guilty of misrepresenting his Lib Dem opponent and has declared his election void. He becomes the first MP to be expelled from parliament for "corrupt practices" since 1911.
All of which makes Ed Miliband's decision to appoint Woolas as shadow Home Office minister last month look like a remarkable act of misjudgement. Even if Woolas had been found innocent, his campaign "tactics" were reason enough to exclude him. Miliband and Labour now face a by-election in the highly marginal seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth, which Woolas held by just 103 votes in May. (Though the smart money is on Labour retaining the seat.)
Below is the demagogic leaflet published by the Woolas campaign, which accused the Lib Dems of courting support from Islamic extremists.
The text reads: "Extremists are trying to hijack this election. They want you to vote Lib Dem to punish Phil for being strong on immigration. The Lib Dems plan to give hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants the right to stay. It is up to you. Do you want the extremists to win?"
Legal documents submitted to the high court proved that there was a calculated attempt by the Woolas campaign to whip up racial tensions in a bid to get the "white vote" behind him.
An email by Woolas's election agent, Joseph Fitzpatrick, to the candidate declared: "We need . . . to explain to the white community how the Asians will take him out . . . If we don't get the white vote angry, he's gone." Another from Fitzpatrick to Steve Green, the MP's campaign adviser, said: "We need to go strong on the militant Muslim [sic] angle" and proposed the headline "Militant Muslims [sic] target Woolas".
On another occasion, Woolas and his campaign team doctored a police photo (you can see it here) to make it appear as if Watkins had been arrested.
Why was this man allowed anywhere near Labour's front bench?
UPDATE: After some confusion over whether he is eligible to stand again, it has emerged that Woolas is banned for three years from being an MP. He is applying for a judicial review.