Labour accuses Lib Dems of dirty tricks in Oldham

 

The Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election descended into acrimony last night as Labour accused the Liberal Democrats of launching personal attacks on their candidate in a last ditch attempt to win the seat.

Labour condemned Liberal Democrat leaflets suggesting that Labour's candidate, Debbie Abrahams, had misled voters at the last general election about where she lived. The Liberal Democrats responded that they were merely highlighting the fact that Ms Abrahams had given two "obviously contradictory" statements at different elections. There was also concern within the Labour camp that Jack Straw's criticism of the Pakistani community at the weekend for not being "more open" about the sexual grooming of young white girls had become an electoral factor among Muslim voters.

Labour canvassers said they had overheard a Liberal Democrat supporter highlighting Mr Straw's remarks to voters. The issue was also raised at a hustings held at a community centre in the Glodwick area of the former mill town, which is home to many voters of Pakistani descent and was the scene of severe rioting in 2001.

Ms Abrahams did not attend the hustings. Organisers said she had been invited, but Labour said no invitation had been received. Muslims make up around 10 per cent of the electorate.

The event's organiser, Imran Shah of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, said both Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates had turned up and taken the opportunity to condemn Mr Straw's remarks. "People will be more inclined to think that Labour doesn't really care about the Muslim community," said Mr Shah.

Local Labour councillor Fida Hussain, who represents the Werneth ward which is part of Oldham West, conceded there was some dismay over Mr Straw's views. "I have heard that Mr Straw's comments are being taken very seriously in the community. They haven't been helpful to the Labour Party," he said.

The issue of race in the campaign is particularly sensitive to both sides in this election – as it formed the basis of the complaint against Phil Woolas which resulted in him being thrown out as an MP. He was found guilty of attacking his Liberal Democrat opponent Elwyn Watkins's personal conduct and character with false statements that he courted Muslim extremists who had advocated violence against the Labour MP.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said they had not raised the issue of Mr Straw's comments as part of their campaign – but it was possible that their canvassers had been responding to concerns already within the community. "Our position is that grooming is wrong whatever the background of those people involved," said a spokesman.

Much of the recent discourse has revolved around how "local" the candidates are. Ms Abrahams was targeted in Liberal Democrat election leaflets after apparently giving an address in neighbouring Colne Valley when she fought the seat in May.

Labour insists she has lived in Newhey, part of Oldham East and Saddleworth, for the past 25 years. She has also faced allegations that she quit her post as head of Rochdale Primary Care Trust over Labour's plans to increase private healthcare provision.

The constituency's former MP, Phil Woolas, broke his silence yesterday to suggest he thought Labour would easily hold the seat. "The feedback I have had is that people in the constituency did not like two judges coming up from London and telling them who to vote for," he said. "What happened to me will work in Labour's favour."

Eric Illsley to quit Parliament

The disgraced MP Eric Illsley is to quit the Commons, triggering a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Barnsley Central.

Illsley pleaded guilty this week to dishonestly claiming more than £14,000 in parliamentary expenses and will be sentenced next month. If he is jailed for less than a year, he could theoretically continue as an MP, drawing a salary. But David Cameron and Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, urged him to go voluntarily.

Illsley announced yesterday he had decided to resign before he is sentenced. "I would like to apologise... for the distress and embarrassment caused by my actions that I deeply, deeply regret. I have begun to wind down my parliamentary office, following which I will resign from Parliament," he said.

Nigel Morris

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain