A high-profile Conservative has donated money to the legal fighting fund of former Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas. Blogger and political pundit Iain Dale has given £100, as Mr Woolas tries to raise money to fund a potential judicial review.
Mr Woolas is battling the decision taken by two judges earlier this month that he broke election law by making false statements about his Liberal Democrat opponent during the general election. The judges declared the election result void and gave Mr Woolas a three-year ban on standing for public office. He was also suspended by Labour.
Lawyers for Mr Woolas will this week argue before a panel of three judges that a full judicial review of the original decision should take place. The Woolas team claim the statements shouldn’t have been ruled illegal because, in their view, they related to Elwyn Watkins’ political strategy rather than just his personal character.
Mr Woolas has already received financial help from several of his former Labour colleagues. Writing on his blog today, Mr Dale said that although he found the leaflets produced by the Woolas campaign to be “indefensible” he too had decided to help the ex-minister because he thought it was wrong for a court to intervene in an election in such a way.
He added: “If indeed there was to be a re-run, Phil Woolas should have been able to put his case to the Labour Party for continuing as their candidate.”
Mr Dale went on: “And after all this is over, we should look at the application of this law, because the long term implciations are quite stark for the way we conduct our election campaigns. We need to ensure that robust debate continues. To my mind, the way these kind of disputes should be resolved is not to take them to ‘election courts’, but instead through the libel courts.”
You can read Iain Dale’s blogpost here.
A full archive of articles about the battle for Oldham East and Saddleworth is available here.