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Miliband’s Regret Over Woolas Leaflets

Ed Miliband takes questions during his campaign visit to Moorside this afternoon.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he regrets the leaflets which cost Phil Woolas his political career, but has stopped short of apologising for them. On a by-election campaign visit to Moorside this afternoon, Mr Miliband also said Labour’s candidate Debbie Abrahams was “absolutely the right person” to be Saddleworth’s next MP.

The by-election in the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency was formally called this morning, and will take place on January 13. It follows the decision of a special court to strip Mr Woolas of his victory in May’s general election, for using leaflets to spread lies about his Liberal Democrat opponent.

In an interview with Saddleworth News, Mr Miliband said: “I regret what Phil Woolas did, and I accept the court judgement. Now the task is to look forward in Oldham East and Saddleworth, and decide who we want as a new member of parliament. I think Debbie Abrahams is absolutely the right person to do that job.”

He added: “We have a very clear message at this by-election, which is ‘what do you think of the broken promises of this government?’ On tuition fees, on police cuts, and indeed on the economy, where we see a VAT rise on 4 January contrary to what they promised.”

One of the controversial leaflets sent out by Phil Woolas during the general election campaign.

When pressed on whether he would apologise for Mr Woolas’ conduct, Mr Miliband said: “I absolutely regret what Phil did. And I’ve made that absolutely clear right from day one of the court judgement. The court has now reached its decisions, and Phil has accepted the fact that he’s no longer going to be the MP.”

Mr Miliband, who reappointed Mr Woolas to his frontbench team before the verdict was delivered, continued: “Now the task is to move on, and elect a new MP, and I think that’s what most people in this borough are going to be interested in. They have a chance to send a message to the government about their deficit plans, the fact they’re going too far and too fast, what that means for students, local policing, and jobs.”

When asked whether Labour had a message in this by-election for people in Saddleworth as well as those in Oldham, Mr Miliband said: “We have, because whether you are in an urban area, a rural area, whatever background you come from, whatever age you are, all of us are worried about the things that we’re campaigning on. Issues like jobs, policing, the future for our young people, and I think that’s a concern for all of us.”

Mr Miliband continued: “The big argument in British politics today is: Do you go at the speed this government is going on the deficit? Too far and too fast in our view, it’s a threat to jobs, it’s a threat to services, it’s a threat to the future of young people. Or do you pursue a more moderate path, which is what we’re advocating.”

Debbie Abrahams listens to Ed Miliband at St Thomas' Church in Moorside earlier.

Mr Miliband spoke to Saddleworth News following an hour-long question-and-answer session with local supporters and others at St Thomas’ Church in Moorside. He came to our area just hours after the Lib Dems set the date of the poll by moving the election writ at Westminster.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems welcomed Business Secretary Vince Cable to the area today. He met their candidate Elwyn Watkins and Oldham business leaders at the Lees Brewery in Middleton.

As for the Conservatives, Downing Street confirmed today that David Cameron would be coming to Oldham East and Saddleworth at some stage between now and polling day to help Kashif Ali’s campaign. Traditionally, Prime Ministers don’t take part in by-election campaigns, but Mr Cameron promised in opposition that he’d change that if elected, and his spokesman indicated today that he intended to stick to that.

There are four other candidates that we know about so far. They are Peter Allen for the Greens, the BNP’s Nick Griffin, Paul Nuttall for UKIP and Stephen Morris of the English Democrats. Saddleworth News will be carrying out in-depth interviews with each of the candidates between now and 13 January.

For full coverage of the by-election so far from Saddleworth News, click here.

15 comments to Miliband’s Regret Over Woolas Leaflets

  • helen

    Good grief. Would it hurt them to apologise just once?

    Any news whether woolas’ co-conspirators have been expelled from labour yet? Or does ed’s regret not extend to actually doing anything about it?

  • Michael Wood

    There was no need to say sorry, because Mr Woolas did nothing wrong and the court case was only lost because it was a law the judges could not deal with. Mr Watkins you should say sorry to MR Woolas for him loosing his seat, but you had to put your dummy in and run to the court, Mr Judge Mr Woolas has said bad things about me. Mr Watkins this is labour seat and I think you will loose badly and quite possible loose your deposit. Mr Watkins pull out now before you get shown up. The Liberal party is finished along with your Leader Mr Clegg Camerons is using the party.

  • helen

    Five high court judges couldn’t deal with what, Michael Wood?

    I suspect that the most senior and expert judges in the land on electoral law can deal with things like electoral law quite ably.

    Their judgement was quite clear and very damning about woolas’ conduct.

    I’d also like an apology about woolas giving a parliamentary pass to an environmental lobbyist when he was environment minister. But I doubt he will.

  • Michael Wood

    If you looked at it very careful you would see and you could read it in the press, that Mr woolas was cleared on most, but why should they say sorry, and are you saying that lobbyist cannot contact MP. I think Miss that you think all the Liberal turn coats are doing nothing. I take it you are quite possible a Liberal, which surprises me because there are not many left. There were 2 turn coats in Saddleworth with Vince Cable did he bring his dance partner with him from Strickly so he could practice. Do you really think that Watkins is going to get in, be sensible Helen he does not stand any chance all the reports are going to be on the other people who will give the press more to write about. He will likely put his dummy in again if the press leave him alone with some stupid complaint. I do feel sorry for your lot because they are going to get shown up with going against the student fees it finished them. Good Luck.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme

    I think tuition fees, police cuts and for me the appalling report in to-day media from the independent Institute for fiscal Studies (IFS) are the real issues this by election should be fought on.

    The IFS say the government’s programme to slash spending will see the first rise in absolute child poverty for 15 years, with almost 200,000 children pushed into penury, and over 1 million more people are going to descend into poverty as a results of the Lib Dem/ Tory cuts.

    The Woolas affair fades into total insignificance in comparison with the lives of yet more families and young people blighted by this governments policies – while those wretched bankers whose greed and stupidity got us into this mess still get their billions in bonuses.

    Now that’s what gets me really really angry ! And that’s what I’ll be voting on on January 13th – not some silly spat between professional politicians.

  • helen

    Michael, woolas was found guilty. Twice. Which is why he is a convicted criminal and not an mp.

    I do not like woolas’ record on expenses claims or lobbyists. But he got caught on his illegal election campaign and good riddance.

  • Oh gawd…here we go again.

    Elwyn said….

    Phil said…

    My dad’s bigger than your dad!….

    there is aline; one man stepped over it, the other stopped just short. It doesn’t show either of them in a particularly good light. Then again, neither does the law itself come out of this all squeeky clean; you can lie through your teeth to the electorate in terms of false promises or manifesto pledges, but you can’t lie about another politician.

    The whole system is hopelessly biased in favour of political spin and expediency, and against what is good and right for the people of the country.

    I would hope that the current campaign is fought more honestly and with a degree of integrity, but from what I’ve seen of (and already ranted about) Watkins’ feeble and insulting excuse for a crime survey, I don’t hold out much hope.

    Can the labour bunch do any better?…probably not.

    Such is the nature of British politics.

  • Andy, Uppermill

    standing ovation for Mic Norbury…

  • Sarah Smith

    ‘we have made v clear in the judgement, Mr Woolas has always said that he does not agree with the findings of the Parliamentary Election Court on fact. There is no avenue of appeal and we have underlined that and would wish it to be noted that this is the case. Second, we should add that on the basic argument of law Mr Woolas substantially succeeds as well’
    Lord Justice Thomas
    High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division
    3rd December 2010

  • Michael Wood

    Helen can you think of some thing constutive to say about the election in stead of going on about Mr Woolas that is now old news, he was a good MP and the man Watkins spoiled the mans work. Do not say anything unnless it is useful. Mr Hulme has hit the nail right on the head, They doing all these cuts and then they will blame every one else which they have started doing.

  • grotton red

    What Woolas did is only old news if the Labour Party and its core supporters accept what he did was illegal and show some remorse. Whether we like it or not Woolas’ actions will have a negative impact and there are some who will not vote for the Labour Party this time because of this.

    Will these people swap to the Lib Dems? Based on the unpopular recent policies of the coalition and their u turns to support these i don’t think the Lib Dems will have done themselves any favours to increase their votes either.

    Both these parties will have been damaged by recent events. I can see the Tories winning if they retain their number of votes as both Labour and Lib Dem voters from last time don’t turn out to vote.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme

    Grotton Red is putting forward a very credible possibility – although I don’t support his national politics, Kashif Ali the Tory candidate would be a much better MP than Elwyn

  • […] Labour leader Ed Miliband has already made a campaign visit here. And you can read a Saddleworth News interview with him here. […]

  • […] can read an interview from last week with Labour leader Ed Miliband here, and check Saddleworth News tomorrow for an interview with Conservative Chairman Baroness Warsi, […]

  • […] next to him when he did so”. I cannot find any evidence for this online; the closest is this article from the indefatigable Saddleworth News (their by-election coverage has been exemplary). When asked […]

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