Posts Tagged ‘Phil Woolas’

Labour selects candidate for Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election

12/12/2010, 04:40:38 PM
Debbie Abrahams

Debbie Abrahams has been selected to fight Oldham East & Saddleworth

Labour has selected Debbie Abrahams as its candidate in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election which follows the disqualification of former MP, Phil Woolas. She beat Riaz Ahmed and Cllr Abdul Jabbar, who were also shortlisted yesterday, in a selection by members at a count at Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham.

Abrahams was Labour’s candidate in Colne Valley at this year’s general election, coming third behind the Tories and Lib Dems. She is a public health consultant, a former director of public health research at Liverpool university and is the former chair of Rochdale primary care trust. She lives in Oldham with her husband, a former professional cricketer who now coaches the England under 19s, and their two daughters.

On winning the selection she said:

“It’s an honour and a privilege to have been selected as Labour’s candidate. Now I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting as many residents as possible in the next few weeks to listen to their concerns.

It’s important that the real issues and concerns of people in the borough are not lost during this by-election campaign. People feel let down by the LibDem-Tory broken promises on police cuts, tuition fees and VAT.  It doesn’t have to be this way, there is an alternative.

This is an opportunity for people to send a message to the government. Oldham East and Saddleworth needs a Labour MP who will stand up and fight for them. I’m determined to keep my promises and deliver the best possible deal for people in this borough”.

The writ is expected to be moved in the new year, with Labour looking to hold the by-election on February 3rd.

UPDATE: Debbie has just recorded this message..

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Tory lies, Lib Dem lies, Phil Woolas and a mystical shaman of truth

08/12/2010, 07:00:18 AM

by Tom Watson

Truth, for some politicians, is a percentages game. There is the platonic “noble lie”. There is the outright denial in the face of facts. There is the Nick Clegg pledge. And now the judges have added a new category. They’ve added the Woolas campaign leaflet to the taxonomy of political truths and lies. It’s a decision we will all regret.

The wikileaks debacle says a lot about truth and lies. None of the words published on the Wikileaks website belonged to Julian Assange. They were the secret communications of the elites of our international political system. They didn’t want you to know what they really thought. And when Assange published the documents that exposed elites to scorn and ridicule, somebody somewhere tried to stop you reading their candid words.

The powerful have gone to extraordinary lengths to stop you reading on wikileaks what three million security cleared Americans can read whenever they like. With state department operatives allegedly parked outside the home of his lawyer, can we politicians really be surprised to witness the morphogenesis of Assange into a mystical shaman of truth with a global following? (more…)

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The man behind the (temporary) moustache: Dan Hodges interviews John Healey

07/12/2010, 11:59:09 AM

It’s eight fifteen in the morning, and John Healey has a date with destiny. For a month Labour’s shadow health secretary has been sporting a moustache proud enough to stand comparison with a Sopwith Camel ace or Clement Atlee. But today the “mo” must go.

“It’s my contribution to Movember, the campaign to raise prostate cancer awareness. I was pretty shocked when I took over the health brief to discover the mortality rate from the disease. It’s treatable, but so many men leave it too late”.

A worthy cause. But down in the depths of the House of Commons barbers the fundraising for the prostate cancer charity hits a snag. Kelly the hairdresser bears bad tidings.

“I’m sorry Mr Healey, but I won’t be able to do it. I can’t use a razor”.

No razor. In a barbers?

“No. So sorry. Health and safety”.

John Healey elevates a quizzical eyebrow. “I’m going to have to raise this with Lord Young”. (more…)

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Phil Woolas’ letter to George Howarth and the PLP

06/12/2010, 04:37:55 PM

Dear George

Further to our conversation, I am writing to thank you and through you, the PLP, for all of your efforts on my behalf.

I believe the outcome of the Election Court decision and the Judicial Review is devastating news not just for me personally but for the conduct of future elections. Through our efforts we have at least established that a Judicial Review of an Election Court decision in England for a Parliamentary Election is possible. There was never doubt that it is possible in Scotland and for local elections. We also overturned the outrageous precedent of the Oldham Election Court on the definition of what is personal comment and what is fair political comment. Unfortunately, the High Court did not follow the logic of their argument and overturn the finding regarding two of the election leaflet articles.

It was encouraging that we won on the costs with the Court ruling that each side should pay its own costs. As my legal team were acting for free and out of their conviction of my case and the importance of it, this will mean that I will be able to refund the bulk of the money that you helped to raise – around £50,000.

The judgement leaves the definition of fair political comment in uncertainty. The Election Court defined a meaning to my election leaflets that we do not accept. There is a huge difference, in my opinion between accusing the Liberal Democrats of pandering to extremism and supporting it. In any event, our argument was that this was fair political comment.

I am pleased that our Party Leader, Ed Miliband has supported the call for the Electoral Commission to review this area of the law. (more…)

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Have some ministerial jobs become too hot to handle?

22/11/2010, 02:00:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

PHIL Woolas’ current predicament owes at least something to his being a tough immigration minister in the last government. With a large Muslim population in his Oldham backyard and with boundary changes making his marginal seat more ethnically diverse, his day job hardly endeared him to a big chunk of his local electorate. The rest is history.

Would Woolas have faced the same little local difficulty if he had not been immigration minister? And would he then have run the campaign he ran?

However this story eventually plays itself out, what it serves to remind us is that there are certain ministerial jobs that are not for the faint-hearted. Immigration minister is the obvious role that is always difficult for Labour politicians. It is the type of posting where you are not going to get any thanks, whatever you do. Too hardline for some, too wishy-washy for others.

Ironically, for such a complex issue, there are, ultimately, only three positions you can have on immigration. There is too much of it. Not enough of it. Or the balance is just right. You can discount the last option because no-one is ever happy with the status quo. Most people in the country opt for the first. Many in the Labour party for the second. On this issue, more than just about any other, you will never please all of the people all of the time.

Labour is, of course, instinctively sympathetic to the plight of refugees and immigrants. And justly so. But the hard reality is that not all deserve to stay. Most rational people accept that. Some, however, do not want to follow through the brutal logic. (more…)

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Liar, know thyself

15/11/2010, 09:00:20 AM

by Eric Joyce

Upon reading the dozens of bitter and bileful comments below Peter Watt’s thoughtful Uncut piece on the Phil Woolas episode, I was struck by how many people there are around of unimpeachable personal integrity, their lives un-marred by a single personal error of any significance.

As a pure person who has never done anything I later regretted, I felt among kindred spirits. Indeed, if you check out the letters page of any newspaper, you’ll see that such virtue is commonplace these days. While, at the same time, recent research (at shows that most people are pretty sure that most politicians are lying most of the time.

So why is it that all politicians, apart from me, are such lying liars? Why are they all, with the same caveat, such cowardly cowards? What’s so wrong with democracy that it only elevates to public office scoundrels and never the pure (me aside)? It’s a puzzle.

It occurs to me that, just for laughs you understand, it might be worth taking a look at these questions through the other end of the telescope. What if it were the case that our democratic system does not systematically and dysfunctionally send just the scum of the earth to Westminster? What, instead, if it were true that many people were living lies and using politicians as a means of exorcising their own demons of guilt and frustration; politicians the vessel for their own imperfections? (more…)

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Woolas case tension builds inside Labour

11/11/2010, 05:48:32 PM

Supporters of Phil Woolas are confident that he will now be granted leave to seek judicial review, with an expedited hearing expected to be held early next week, Uncut has learned.

Sources close to the former MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth also believe that the facts of the case will be subject to challenge. This is contrary to the interpretation of a number of legal experts. Woolas’ supporters also remain confident of the overall outcome, citing one legal opinion as placing their chances of success at 60%.

Meanwhile, tensions seem to be emerging between Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman over the management of Woolas’ suspension from the party.

Some MPs believe that Ms Harman is being unfairly blamed for the continuing fall-out from the crisis. Amid signs that Ed Miliband is preparing to distance himself from Ms Harman, one MP said, “They’re clearing the decks. If Woolas wins his judicial review Ed’s people are going to throw Harriet overboard”.

Sources close to Ed Miliband have been noting that the original decision to retain Woolas on the front bench as immigration minister was initially taken by Ms Harman, then the acting leader. A shadow cabinet minister today said that Harriet’s comments over the weekend were, “not state sponsored”.

This represents a change in stance for the leader’s office, who on Friday were briefing selected lobby journalists that Phil Woolas political career “is over”, as a result of the election court ruling.

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What now after Woolas? Is the campaign playbook facing a re-write?

11/11/2010, 12:00:00 PM

by Dave Collins

FROM the glorious revolution onward, “anything goes” has been the default position for British election literature, subject principally to the deterrence provided by England and Wales’ notoriously plaintiff-friendly defamation legislation. The Oldham East & Saddleworth judgement asks a lot of questions about whether this is going to continue. British political communications could be transformed.

UK election campaigns have a long record of controversy and allegations of skulldugery. A classic was the 1784 Westminster election in which supporters of the prime minister, William Pitt, backed by the palace, organised to oppose the return of star Whig politician, Charles James Fox, in the seat with the widest popular franchise in Great Britain. According to the Wikipedia entry, “both sides spent heavily, campaigned bitterly, allegedly libelled and slandered their opponents relentlessly and resorted to all kinds of tactics, including Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire touring the streets and, according to the opposition, kissing many voters to induce them to vote for Fox”.

Subtle. But does it constitute misrepresentation?

Following Fox’s victory by 6,233 votes to 5,998, a prolonged scrutiny of the votes (similar to Florida’s ‘hanging chads’ dispute in 2004) was used by the high bailiff as a pretext to delay making the return. Until finally, 10 months later, the House voted 162-124 against the government, in effect finding Pitt guilty of illicit intriguing against his leading opponent.

More contemporary controversies include Smethwick (1964), in which the Conservative candidate who defeated Patrick Gordon-Walker ran an openly racist campaign, employed the slogan “if you want a nigger for your neighbour – vote Liberal or Labour”. Victorious PM Harold Wilson promptly elevated Gordon Walker to the peerage and made him foreign secretary, while calling for the new MP, Peter Griffiths, to be made a “parliamentary leper”. Griffiths lost the seat in 1966, being kicked out by the voters rather than as the consequence of legal action.

In 1992 Gerald Malone, defeated in Winchester by just two votes, did go to court arguing that 55 ballots voided for lack of official mark should have been counted. He won the case and the election of Mark Oaten for the Lib Dems was voided. Oaten however went on to win the resulting by-election with a handsome 10,000 majority. This swing against Malone was taken by many as evidence that voters tend to react against attempts to overturn election results via the courts on technicalities and the 1992 Winchester by-election result, together with the costs incurred by both parties, have generally served to discourage similar cases ever since.

In the 1997 New Labour landslide, the election of Fiona Jones for Newark was overturned after she and her (volunteer) agent were found guilty by the high court of failing correctly to declare some costs on the expenses return and thereby exceeding campaign spending limits. Neither Jones nor her agent had expected to win and ran a rather shambolic campaign, directed equally toward the concurrent local elections in which the local Labour party did expect to be able to make gains. Not anticipating victory, they failed to budget for the campaign properly, or to track spending once it had started. Exactly like Phil Woolas, Fiona Jones was initially defended by Labour party solicitors, but dropped like a stone once convicted and disqualified on March 19th 1999. (more…)

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Hung out to dry by Labour: I know how Woolas feels

08/11/2010, 11:30:59 AM

by Peter Watt

I have a very personal experience of what it is like to be brutally cast asunder by the Labour party. The circumstances were different than those which have led to the position Phil Woolas finds himself in – but I suspect that the personal impact was similar.

I was general secretary of the party when, in November 2007, the Abrahams 3rd party donation scandal erupted. It happened on my watch. I took responsibility and in a blaze of negative publicity I resigned.

I knew that once I’d resigned an important part of the “handling strategy” of the donation story would be to rough me up a bit. I wasn’t naive. I accepted it as part of the rough nature of politics. The more I was damaged in the short term, the less the party was going to be damaged in the long-term. That had to be the right thing for the “greater good”.

What I was not prepared for was the massive toll this took on me, my family and friends.  I expected that the party would support me personally, behind the scenes. That they would caveat their attacks. Issue some statements of personal support that recognised my contribution to the party over many years. With a few notable exceptions, what I got was a character assassination. It went beyond being “roughed-up” to being a full blown assault. The personal impact was devastating. (more…)

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Saturday News Review

06/11/2010, 09:22:46 AM

Woolas woes

The former immigration minister Phil Woolas was ejected from parliament today after two high court judges ruled that he lied about his Liberal Democrat opponent during the general election, in a judgment that is likely to have profound implications for all future campaigns.

Woolas claimed the ruling – which also triggered a byelection and barred him from standing again for three years – would “chill political speech”, but the Lib Dem who challenged his 103 majority welcomed the decision, saying lying should play no part in democratic elections. – Guardian

Two High Court judges made the historic decision to overturn the result of May’s ballot in Mr Woolas’s constituency, the first such ruling for 99 years, and order a by-election. The ruling means Mr Woolas will be barred from standing for public office for three years, and he could face criminal charges after a file on the case was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. – Telegraph

Prescott… no, Farrelly

Paul Farrelly, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, said he became embroiled in the brawl in a House of Commons corridor after chastising Bjorn Hurrell, a newspaper vendor, for being “lary” at the Sport and Social Club bar. The 48-year-old said he acted in self defence after Mr Hurrell, 46, followed him outside the pub and attempted to “land a haymaker” on him. “Like John Prescott a few years ago, I was under attack and I took steps to ensure he couldn’t punch me again,” Mr Farrelly said. – Telegraph

Nice one Nigel

Nigel Farage has launched an attack on Prime Minister David Cameron as he returned as leader of the UK Independence Party. The MEP and former leader beat David Campbell Bannerman, Tim Congdon and Winston McKenzie in the members’ ballot. Mr Farage, who received more than 60% of the vote, used his acceptance speech to criticise the Government and call on disillusioned voters to switch to UKIP. He said the Conservatives’ policy in Europe could be summed up as: “Surrender, surrender, surrender.” – Sky News

Mr Farage, who led UKIP from 2006 to 2009, took just over 60% of votes in a ballot of party members. He beat fellow MEP David Campbell-Bannerman, economist Tim Congdon and former boxer Winston McKenzie. He will take over from Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who stood down after only nine months in the job. The leader of the party in the European Parliament, Mr Farage was injured in a light aircraft crash on 6 May – the day of the general election. – BBC News

Calamity Clegg

Students have called on Nick Clegg to attend a rally next week against tuition fees and funding cuts, to explain his U-turn on lifting the cap. The Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats signed a pledge before the general election promising to vote against any fee hike. But the coalition government confirmed on Wednesday that from 2012, students would be charged up to £9,000 per year for a university education. Next Wednesday, students and lecturers will take part in a march through Westminster, followed by a demonstration, in protest against higher education funding cuts and plans to triple fees. – Press Association

C’mon Labour

Labour gained two marginal seats from Conservatives in the latest council by-elections. Its candidate Jenny Millin won at Moredon in Swindon Borough giving a morale boost to the party in a town where it lost both its parliamentary seats in the General Election. Analysis of five comparable results, with all three major parties standing both times, suggests a projected nationwide line-up of C 38.4%, Lab 38.2%, Lib Dem 13.5%. – Independent

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