Friday, 5 November 2010

What a silly (Wool)ass!

So, we have today been officially informed that Phil Woolas is no longer an MP.

The news came out earlier, and has been subject to the need for clarification for several, but has now been confirmed: Labour MP Woolas's re-election is void.

This has happened as a court has now come to the scarcely avoidable conclusion (considering the unambiguous evidence) that his re-election campaign contravened electoral law by making false claims about his (Liberal Democrat) opponent. I have a copy of the offending literature as proof, by the way

Though Mr Woolas is going to apply for a Judicial Review of the case, this doesn't affect his personal status as an ex-MP in the meantime. He has also been suspended from the Labour party, according to a statement from Harriet Harman.

There could now be a by-election in the "Oldham East and Saddleworth"constituency, depending on the House's decision on whether to wait for the outcome of the Judicial Review. That decision is expected to be announced, by the Speaker, to the House on Monday 8 November. It needs to be borne in mind that it probably needs a court injunction to prevent an immediate by-election, and even that isn't certain to be legally enforceable.

It is noteworthy that, although the judgement came to public notice at 1127 this morning, the Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, has yet to make any comment, nearly seven hours later. Not that Gordon Brown was noted for reacting swiftly to events, but even he might have been faster at reacting to this somewhat notable news for his party!

Update at 8 pm: Ed-M has now commented, some seven and  half hours later, saying that the court ruling against Phil Woolas was a salutary reminder to all politicians about the need to play fair in electoral politics.

This is not only a bit late, and doesn't hold water anyway as Labour were hardly being straight with the electorate during the May election anyway, as is well documented elsewhere (especially Gordon Brown's own activities). It is also a bad reflection on Ed-M's decision to appoint Mr Woolas to his shadow cabinet while the case was pending. That was just plain daft. Ollie Cromwell isn't impressed!

One curious twist is that this news broke on the day the BBC's presenters (especially those at Radio 4) went out on strike, so it actually got fair and even-handed coverage from the substitutes at the Beeb. On any other day, of course, it would have been hugely different!

UPDATE 7 Nov: There is a very interesting piece on this business by Reading councillor Richard Willis, including some interesting quotes from Labour people. So many questions are raised by the manner of Labour's responses!

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