Phil Woolas 'crushed' after losing legal battle

Former Labour MP Phil Woolas's hopes of regaining his seat were dashed today after he failed in a High Court bid to overturn a decision stripping him of his Commons seat.

Mr Woolas, who is banned from standing for election for three years, said there was no avenue open to him to mount a further challenge.



The ex-minister said: "That is the end, I am out - which I think is unfair and, more importantly, my 70,000 voters will think it is unfair."



Three senior judges rejected his legal challenge against the November 5 decision of a specially convened election court declaring void the 2010 general election result in Oldham East and Saddleworth.



In the first judgment of its kind in 99 years, the election court ruled that Mr Woolas was guilty of deliberately lying about Liberal Democrat rival Elwyn Watkins.



Later Mr Watkins welcomed the decision, declaring it "a victory for the people of Oldham and Saddleworth".



The election court judges had found comments made by Mr Woolas in election campaign statements clearly amounted to attacks on Mr Watkins's "personal character or conduct", in breach of Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act.



The former immigration minister had accused Mr Watkins of trying to "woo" the votes of Muslims who advocated violence, and refusing to condemn extremists who advocated violence against Mr Woolas himself.



Imposing the three-year ban, the election court held that Mr Woolas, who beat Mr Watkins by just 103 votes in a bitter campaign, had "no reasonable grounds for believing (the statements) to be true and did not believe them to be true".



Mr Watkins's legal team had described Mr Woolas's election strategy as being "of the basest kind", stirring up racial tensions in an area that had seen race riots in 2001.



At the High Court, lawyers for Mr Woolas argued in a two-day hearing last month that the election court judges had misdirected themselves on the true meaning and effect of the words "personal character or conduct".



But today Lord Justice Thomas, Mr Justice Tugendhat and Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sitting in London, declared that Mr Woolas had rightly been found guilty of "illegal practice".



The judges said statements made by Mr Woolas about Mr Watkins were "a serious personal attack on a candidate by saying he condoned violence by extremists and refused to condemn those who advocated violence."



The legal challenge was fast-tracked to ensure the Oldham and Saddleworth seat does not go too long without an MP.



Mr Woolas said: "It is obviously a very serious concern that my voters who have elected me four times have not been given the right to judge this matter for themselves as I am barred from standing for Parliament for three years.



"I was very grateful for the judge in this hearing who pointed out that there is no mechanism for appealing against the finding of facts and, as I have said in the past, I strongly contest the interpretation that has been given to them.



"It is now unclear what is political and what is personal and that is not good for a strong democracy."



But his rival Mr Watkins disagreed, saying: "This judgment makes it clear once again that if you knowingly lie in your election campaign and deceive your constituents you should be kicked out of Parliament. This is a victory for the people of Oldham and Saddleworth.



"Now it is time to move on and for the by-election to take place. The people of Oldham East and Saddleworth have been without an MP for long enough. They need to be able to choose a new Member of Parliament as soon as possible.



"With just 103 votes between Labour and myself at the General Election, it is going to be a very close contest. I hope that local people will back someone who has a track record for standing up for what he believes in."



A spokesman for Commons Speaker John Bercow said he would "study the judgment" before deciding how to proceed.



A Labour spokesman said: "The Labour Party administratively suspended Phil Woolas after the original judgment of the election court.



"Following the conclusion of this judicial review, the Labour Party will consider this issue in detail and whether further action is appropriate."



British National Party leader Nick Griffin suggested that he may stand for election to the Commons when the by-election is held.



The far-right MEP wrote on social networking site Twitter: "Our local organiser well up for it with me as candidate."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee