Phil Woolas guilty

… of breaching s106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

Not being in the court, I’m following this via Saddleworth News’ CoverItLive session.

It seems (and I stand to be corrected) that the election is now void and a by-election is in the offing.

He’s been found guilty of putting out leaflets about his Lib-Dem opponent, Elwyn Watkins, saying that he pandered to Muslim extremists and had illicitly received campaign funding from a rich Arab sheikh.

Woolas’ current constituency, Oldham East and Saddleworth (and his previous one, Littleborough and Saddleworth – or ‘Little and Sad’ as it was known) was always a Lib-Lab marginal and Woolas had a reputation for roughhouse campaigning there in the past. In the mid-1990s, he’d attacked his (pro-cannabis liberalisation) rival Chris Davies as being ‘soft on drugs and high on taxes’.

Over on Liberal Conspiracy, they’ve been calling for Woolas’ expulsion from the party even before the verdict was announced. Already, a few pro-Labour tweeters are muttering about a by-election making the seat safer in the current climate….

Update: Dan Hodges over at Labour Uncut is unpicking Labour’s crisis in dealing with immigration and the white working class – well worth a read.


  • Richard Gadsden

    Paul, your account of Little & Sad / Old & Sad is inaccurate.

    Littleborough and Saddleworth had a Conservative MP from 1983 until he died in 1995. It had been a Conservative-Lib Dem marginal with a substantial third place Labour vote.

    The Lib Dems (Chris Davies, now MEP for the region) won the by-election in July 1995 – in, as I well recall, one of the hottest summers the area has ever had – narrowly over a resurgent Blair-led Labour party, with the Tories trailing in third in a seat they had the sitting MP for.

    The new Old and Sad seat is significantly more Labour than the old Little and Sad (Littleborough is now in the post-1997 Rochdale) and has been a Labour-Lib Dem marginal ever since.

  • Richard – yes – your memory is better than mine on this. I’m not from that part of the world and I’ve always thought of the Rochdale area as one of those odd ones where the Liberal vote was unusually high.

    I recall Little & Sad was v important to the New Labour crowd – it was a real test and they were quite macho about it at the time. Peter Mandelson ran Woolas’ original campaign there and it caused all sorts of shape-of-things-to-come shivers among the more liberal-leaning left at the time.

  • DC

    Interesting decision – conflicts slightly with this one:

    “In my view electioneering statements should not be perused with all the precision of a jeweller’s scales. It is open to argument that the words complained of do not amount to an untrue statement of fact but are part and parcel of the political opinions that seem to have been the hallmark of the campaign to date between these two candidates.

  • DC

    But frankly, I’d be very very very very surprised if the Lib Dems were able to win given they appear to be the horse’s ass of the Tory’s trojan horse (of fast right-wing cuts to public spending).

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I suppose its a good result in two senses.
    1 Phil Woolas broke election law….guilty.
    2 Labour wont lose the seat and it will even be a measure of Govt unpopularity……unless of course the Lib Dem is given a free run by the Tories. Actually that makes sense as it would be unwinnable if they fought each other and there MIGHT conceivably be a feeling that the Lib Dem deserved a break.

    But its ironic that he accused his opponent of “pandering”. Did he not exactly do exactly that over Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas.
    I never had him down as “New Labour”. Thats an accent from Lancashire. And he is one of the MPs who opposed the whole Glazer takeover at Manchester United,,,,,,,,hmmm on second thoughts I like him!

  • FJH,

    Phil isn’t really ‘New Labour’ himself, but in the mid-1990s, if you were a by-election candidate, your presentation was out of your own hands.

    He’s ex-president of NUS and got where he did because of his v good TU connections – he was head of press at the GMB prior to getting the seat. I had regular dealings with him there at the time, and lets just say that there are some heads of press that have the trust of their GS and some that don’t have quite as much.

    Phil did – he was quite a player on the ‘old Labour’ right.

  • “he was quite a player on the ‘old Labour’ right.”

    When playing with himself maybe, he was a scumbag over immigration, and a bully to boot, I understand he is barred from political office for three years, good riddance. He was the type of LP politico who when NL said jump, replied how high Tone, and do you want be to kick any one in the bollocks on my way down.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I also had some correspondence with him. He is from Burnley area which was a staunch Jacobite area centred on the Townley family, one of whom was actually one of the last seven people from the Manchester Regiment to be hanged drawn and quartered in England …. I wote in connexion of the preservation of some artefacts within the area. He was quite pleasant about it.

  • Paul

    You write that Dan Hodges piece at labour uncut is worth a read, not in my book as it offers nothing new, and is just yet another attempt to place the defeat of the LP at the last election at the feet of working class people by smearing us as racist. As you recommended his work, below is my reply to Mr Hodges class prejudiced crap.
    “Pandering to white working class prejudice isn’t the preserve of one junior immigration minister. It’s Labour’s official line to take.”

    You cheeky git, pandering to white working class prejudice my arse, New Labour spent its whole period in office pandering, nay grovelling to white middle class prejudice and after they rejected you at the ballot box in 2010, you now have the impertinence to blanket tag us working class folk with racism.

    It seems I need to remind a chancer like you, it was not us who went out and ripped half the world off with the British Empire and practiced the most despicable racism towards the locals.

    It was not us who institutionalised racism within organisations and institutions amongst them the British police, judiciary and civil service.

    It was not us who stood silent, but the NL government whilst the British army and institutions like Oxford and Cambridge remain racist and class prejudiced to the core.

    No, it was you nice middle class folk, especially the English upper middle classes who have benefited most from their wretched deep seated on going racism.

    It is a fact in recent years the working class (of all colors and creeds) have suffered from mass immigration more than any other section of British society, nevertheless, it is still amongst us most newcomers to the UK first live, and always have, it is within our families they marry, become friends, etc, it is us they work alongside or stand in the dole queue with. So before you insult us with the charge of blanket racism, I suggest you check out the local golf club, you arsehole or at least read a history book or even ponder why you lost the last election.

  • Mick H: The best place for your reply, surely, is over there?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Having just watched the coverage on BBC News 24, it seems that this is not merely a story about bog standard election dirty tricks….theres a nasty racial dimension here…and that does not sound good in and around Oldham, Burnley, Blackburn, Bolton where we have seen nasty incidents.
    Woolas is now History. A judicial review is not likely to work.
    Hatty Harman has dumped him.
    Hes suspended for three years and Oldham needs a MP. Therefore theres an election.
    Baroness Wazri making hay about how Ed Milibands judgement is flawed appointing Woolas to the front bench.

    The irony is that the Lib Dem has not a hope of actually winning the seat. They will be a distant third (maybe even behind UKIP or BNP). The Tory was a close third in May and nobody will really turn on the Tories for being Tories…….but they will turn on the Lib Dems for being Tories.
    Yet I cant help feeling sorry for the Lib Dem who believes he was accused of criminality but surely that happens in Norn Iron often.
    But perhaps the most irritating aspect is that the offending remarks were (according to the Editor of the local newspaper) in a leaflet designed to look like a sister newspaper.
    By any standards the story of Mr Woolas is one of sleaze. What next for him?
    “Strictly Come Dancing”
    “Im A Celebrity …Get Me Out of Here”
    “Big Brother”.

  • GoldenFleece

    Bad move by Red Ed to promote this man to the shadow front bench! What was he thinking?!?

  • Seymour Major

    unless of course the Lib Dem is given a free run by the Tories

    Just looking at the figures for the election Labour 31.9%;
    Lib Dem 31.6%; Conservative 26.4%

    In the National opinion polls, the Lib Dems are down 12 from 23.6. Conservatives are up 2 from 37. Labour are up 9 from 29.7. That means not only that Labour would have a clear lead in this seat but that their nearest rivals would now be the Conservatives. That is why many conservatives locally will oppose giving the Lib Dems a free run. Nationally, the Conservatives will want to avoid anything which gives credence to the AV argument.

    Against that, they would want to see Labour beaten if there was a surge of anti-Labour feeling as a result of this case.

    The decision on whether the Cons support the Lib Dems could turn out to be a real “hot potato”.

  • Rory Carr

    Since this news broke I have pondered deeply on the vexed question of how it might be possible to accuse a LibDem of anything more vile than simply to say, “You are a LibDem.”

    But as they (possibly) say up in Phil Woolas’s part of the world, “There’s nowt so queer as folk.”

    Indeed during the last General Election campaign I once answered a knock on my door to find a young man standing on my steps looking anxious who then announced that he was from the Liberal Democrat Party.

    “Never mind, mate,” I said, “I’m sure that if you keep quiet and don’t tell anybody there’s a fair chance that they won’t find out.”

  • Harriet Dromey

    This is a disgraceful attack by a phallocentric society on an innocent Tampax user! Wouldn’t have happened under the great HOhome secretary Jacqui Smith!

  • The point a lot of commentators miss is that we finally have a court censuring professional lying. Now imagine a world where persistent professional lying was an imprisonable offence. Each year every politician, PR person, lawyer and newspaper editor would have to go to prison and prove beyond reasonable doubt that they never, as part of their job, lied. One lie, spend one day in prison. Double the number of days for every extra lie.

  • Rory Carr

    Harriet really ! This is after all a family site, so not before the 9pm watershed, please. Imagine the psychological consequences if some of our more innocent viewers – Pete Baker or Mark McGregor, for example, had been logged in.