Woolas pays the price

Labour faces a by-election after an MP’s election is declared void.

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?"

Leaflet

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.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Oli Scarff/ Getty
Show Hide image

Andy Burnham's full speech on attack: "Manchester is waking up to the most difficult of dawns"

"We are grieving today, but we are strong."

Following Monday night's terror attack on an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena, newly elected mayor of the city Andy Burnham, gave a speech outside Manchester Town Hall on Tuesday morning, the full text of which is below: 

After our darkest of nights, Manchester is today waking up to the most difficult of dawns. 

It’s hard to believe what has happened here in the last few hours and to put into words the shock, anger and hurt that we feel today.

These were children, young people and their families that those responsible chose to terrorise and kill.

This was an evil act. Our first thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured. And we will do whatever we can to support them.

We are grieving today, but we are strong. Today it will be business as usual as far as possible in our great city.

I want to thank the hundreds of police, fire and ambulance staff who worked throughout the night in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

We have had messages of support from cities around the country and across the world, and we want to thank them for that.

But lastly I wanted to thank the people of Manchester. Even in the minute after the attack, they opened their doors to strangers and drove them away from danger.

They gave the best possible immediate response to those who seek to divide us and it will be that spirit of Manchester that will prevail and hold us together.

0800 7318496