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
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'