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Labour Says There’s No Way Back For Woolas

Former MP Phil Woolas speaks to the media after Friday's verdict.

It’s been another bad day for former Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas. After he was stripped of his victory in May’s general election for knowingly lying in election leaflets, Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has said he won’t be welcome back in the party in the future.

As well as losing his job as an MP, Mr Woolas was suspended by the Labour Party on Friday. That followed the verdict delivered by two High Court judges in Uppermill, who agreed with Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins that Mr Woolas had deliberately made false statements about him.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Ms Harman said: “It’s no part of our politics for Labour MPs to get elected on telling lies, so we don’t argue with that judgement.” She went on to suggest that the former Immigration Minister wouldn’t be allowed to return to the Labour Party, even if he wins the judicial review which he hopes to launch.

Mr Woolas is facing a three-year ban from holding public office following the election court case. Ms Harman has also said Labour won’t support him in his attempts to force a review of the judgement.

We’re due to get more information tomorrow from the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. He’s expected to announce if a by-election will be held straight away, or whether the process will be delayed until after any judicial review.

Ms Harman promised today that Labour would fight a “vigorous” campaign in the by-election. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have stressed that they will field their own candidate in what is a genuine three-way marginal constituency, rather than supporting their coalition partners the Lib Dems.

Meanwhile, the Woolas verdict also featured in a special edition of the BBC’s Politics Show in the North West today. Presented from Uppermill, there was a long report on the background to the case, and a feisty studio discussion with MPs from Labour and the Lib Dems.

Sadly the interview I recorded in Dobcross a few weeks ago didn’t make the edited version of the report, but it’s still a fascinating film, with contributions from Mr Watkins, the Conservative candidate Kashif Ali, and senior local Labour figures Joe Fitzpatrick and Cllr John Battye.

You can watch today’s Politics Show in the North West on the BBC iPlayer here. This morning’s Andrew Marr programme can be viewed again here (The interview with Harriet Harman begins at 21:00).

The full background to the case from Saddleworth News is available here.

17 comments to Labour Says There’s No Way Back For Woolas

  • Helen

    I saw the Arif piece. Are the Batty and Fitzpatrick statements libellous? After all, the judges have already ruled that Watkins was innocent of every single allegation.

  • Helen – I’m no lawyer! But for what it’s worth I reckon that in isolation they probably would be. However, taken in the context of the report, with other speakers giving the opposite views and casting doubt on the statements, I don’t think they are defamatory.

    I thought it was particularly interesting to hear John Battye talking about how he didn’t believe Rebecca McGladdery’s diary could have been faked, when that is precisely what the judges concluded in their verdict! Obviously, the interviews for the piece were conducted before Friday (mine, which ended up on the cutting room floor, was recorded more than a month ago). I doubt anyone who took part in the film, with the probably exception of Elwyn Watkins himself, really thought the verdict was going to go the way it did!

  • Helen

    Thanks Richard:

    If it was filmed before Friday, that would seem to let off Fitzpatrick and Battye – but not the BBC…

    But it seems that, despite what Hattie says, not all in the Labour party agree. I note that Meacher’s website has a post dating from after the court case making the allegations that were ruled to completely without basis in Uppermill.

    Rather shocking.

    And, a Labour Party member who attended the NW Labour conference on Saturday has written:

    “Equally as disturbing as the entire Woolas debacle was the scene at North West Labour conference this weekend.

    John Healey took to the stage to deliver a drum-banging and flag-waving speech in which all party members were implored to take to the streets of Oldham East and Saddleworth’s upcoming by-election, with the phrase ‘do it for Phil’ booming out more than once.

    Do it for Phil?! They just don’t get it!

    This, of course, alongside all the bile about what a brilliant opponent of racism Woolas was. Utter crap.”

    Quite.

  • Helen

    Mark Pack is tweeting that “Court has rejected Woolas request for judicial review (though he has 4 days to try again)”

  • Geoff Frost

    Is clock wrong on your computer. Message on the 8th Nov from Helen about Mark Pack is timed as 12.04pm and I’m submitting this on Nov 8th at 11.40am?

  • Glittery Delpher

    I note that Meacher isn’t a stranger to libel. According to wikipedia:

    In 1988 he lost a libel action against the journalist Alan Watkins, who had pointed out that Meacher had invented working class origins by referring to his father as a farm labourer (he was in fact an accountant).

    I would have thought that being called a criminal is more offensive than being called middle class. But then, I’m not a socialist.

    What does Ken Hulme say?

  • Cllr Ken Hulme

    I’m middle class (from a working class family) with no criminal record or even an endorsement on my licence.

    I’ve just read Julian Glover’s piece in to-day’s Guardian on trial – sickening stuff. The buck can’t stop with Phil.

  • Glittery Delpher

    Ken, I wasn’t speaking to your own background or your own purity.

    I was interested in your views as a socialist.

  • Steven Acres

    “The buck can’t stop with Phil.”

    Couldn’t agree more, Mr Hulme. I hope the buck extends to all those that were involved in this sad, sorry and, ultimately, criminal affair.

  • Glittery Delpher

    Steven: What level of involvement do you think is necessary before you think people should be stopped from holding public office or kicked out of the Labour party? Should they have been inolved in drafting the leaflets? Perhaps writing the copy?

  • Glittery Delpher

    Ken: I know you didn’t like this court case from the start. Which is fair enough. But bearing in mind where we are now, would you be happy if Woolas got off on a legal technicality?

    Do you support dodgy people getting off on legal technicalities while people who have suffered real, tangible harm are left without legal recourse?

  • Cllr Ken Hulme

    Sorry Glittery I thought I had answered your question by implication.

    I certainly don’t think being middle class is anything to be ashamed of – around here in Saddleworth most people now thought of as Middle Class started off in working class families like myself and worked very hard to improve their position – I respect and admire that.

    I entirely disapprove of criminal behaviour. When I gave up on the Labour Party several years ago after the expenses scandal and the truly awful behaviour of some of the Labour councillors the last time they ran the Council – after failing to get the Labour Party Regional Director to come in and sort the Oldham party out – some former colleagues said I didn’t really belong in the Labour Party anyway.

    I was told I was ‘Old Methodist’ rather than ‘Old Labour’ and my criticisms of Labour having lost its moral compass were naive – all that mattered was being in power.

    So I guess I am an old fashioned Christian Socialist of the Methodist persuasion at heart.

    Sorry about the long reply Glittery but my
    previous attempt at brevity clearly didn’t work.

    And for once I agree with you Steven Acres – only I think this should have been sorted out by the Labour Party Regionally and Nationally long before this went to court or they saw the light of day – these truly disgraceful Emails have no place in politics – though I dread to think what sort of reading other parties Emails would make.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme

    In answer to your subsequent question Glittery – No – but I do accept the rule of law – even when ‘the law is an ass’.

  • Glittery Delpher

    Cllr Ken: No, you don’t support “getting off on technicalities”?

    Okay, there’s a woman with a limp in London who I think would like to hear that.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme

    I’m not happy about’dodgy’ people getting of with technicalities but I do support the rule of law.

    Is that clear enough ?

    Who is the lady in London you refer to ?

  • Steven Acres

    Ken, and I agree with you about those involved in those disgusting emails should be named, shamed and disciplined.

    What on earth is GD on about?

  • Cllr Ken Hulme

    I don’t know Steven but I think we might have a mutual friend – one of my oldest and dearest.

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