Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Election 2024
5 November 2010

Woolas pays the price

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

By George Eaton

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?”

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.


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.

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action