MP faces new vote for Islamic extremism smears


By Anthony Posner
November 5, 2010
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http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/40751/woolas-facing-new-vote-islamic-e...

A Labour MP who claimed his Liberal Democrat opponent was involved with Islamic extremists is facing a by-election after a judge found that he knowingly made false accusations.
During the 2010 campaign, shadow immigration minister Phil Woolas, fighting for reelection to his Oldham East seat, accused his opponent of wooing extremist Muslims.
Mr Woolas won the seat with 103 more votes than Elwyn Watkins for the Liberal Democrats.
But a special election court has now ruled that the MP breached election regulations by making false claims and there must now be another poll.
Mr Woolas said he will now seek a judicial review, but if he is unsuccessful he will be barred from parliament for three years.
He will also have to step down from the Labour frontbench while the matter is settled.
One email sent around Mr Woolas’ campaign staff before the election contained a comment about getting “the white folk angry” in order to secure a victory.
An election result has not been challenged in this way for 99 years.
Ahead of May’s election, the candidates clashed over arms sales to Israel. Mr Woolas wrote to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg questioning his party’s views on the matter after Mr Watkins wrote to Muslim supporters condemning Israel’s “disproportionate use of force” during the Gaza conflict.
Mr Woolas noted that his opponent worked as an adviser to Sheikh Abdullah Alhamrani, co-owner of one of Saudi Arabia's largest companies.
At the time, Mr Watkins told the JC: "Woolas is trying to portray this as me being antisemitic. I'm not antisemitic at all. He has taken something and tried to make it something it's not."
He said his comments were "supported by quite a few million people. It's not an anti-Israel thing. I would not sell rockets to Hamas either. I was following the party line. I would equally condemn Hamas, Hizbollah or whoever targets civilians."

COMMENTS

Anthony Posner

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 23:42

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STEPHEN POLLARD ON TWITTER

Phil Woolas one of the most decent and thoughtful Labour MPs. Politics can't afford to lose him to a disgraceful case. about 10 hours ago via Twitter for iPad

Shocking ruling against Woolas. For LibDems to cry foul when someome figts back against their own tactics is contemptible. about 10 hours ago via Twitter for iPad


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 10:07

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Well, it sems that Stephen Pollard is out of step with The Tory Party.

Daily Telegraph

Even if Mr Woolas wins his appeal he is unlikely to stand again for Labour. Harriet Harman, the party’s deputy leader, said his legal challenge would not be supported and added: “It is no part of Labour’s politics to try to win elections by telling lies.” The verdict is a personal embarrassment for Ed Miliband, who gave Mr Woolas a front bench position. The Labour leader said it was the “right decision” to suspend Mr Woolas, adding: “There is no place for making misleading allegations about opponents.”
But Baroness Warsi, the Tory Party chairman, said Mr Miliband was “fully aware of Phil Woolas’s despicable and inflammatory campaign but still appointed him”.


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 10:13

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The Guardian

The case was brought under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act (1983) which makes it an offence for anyone to publish "any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct" to prevent them being elected "unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, that statement to be true".

The court ruled that Woolas's claim, in mocked-up newspapers, that Watkins had "wooed" Islamic extremists and failed to condemn radical groups attacks, was deliberately and knowingly misleading. Woolas was also ordered to pay all costs.

Watkins said: "If you know you have lied about your opponent, then simply you have no part to play in democracy."

Woolas's solicitor Gerald Shamash, who regularly acts for the Labour party, said: "In reaching this decision the court adopted an interpretation of conduct detailed in a case nearly 100 years ago when considering a 19th-century statute. Those who stand for election must be prepared to have their political conduct and motives subjected to searching scrutiny and inquiry ... This decision will inevitably chill political speech."


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 10:24

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Financial Times
"a bizarre precedent?"
November 5, 2010
by Jim Pickard

Phil Woolas has just lost an historic court case in which he was accused of making false claims before the general election. There will now be a re-election for his seat, which he won in May with a majority of just 106 votes.

The case was the first of its kind for a century.

As the FT reported last month:

Phil Woolas was re-elected by a slim majority in Oldham east and Saddleworth, beating the Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins. Mr Watkins claims Mr Woolas made false statements about him in an attempt to influence the result.

The court heard that Mr Woolas’s campaign team aimed to “galvanise the white Sun vote” against Mr Watkins, claiming Mr Watkins had tried to “woo” and “pander” to Muslim fanatics and militants, the court was told.

Now the Labour MP has lost the case it will set a curious precedent for British elections, where mud-slinging is widespread and many candidates are thrifty with the actualité.

Without wanting to trivialise a no doubt serious case, where does Woolas’s defeat leave Britain’s political parties in future elections? Will their leaders have to muzzle all candidates for fear of twisting the truth?

Take this general election, where the Lib Dems made a fervent promise to protect tuition fees and prevent them from rising higher. It was a promise worth its weight in hot air. Should some of their MPs face fresh elections?

Or what about the numerous Labour leaflets back in the spring which accused the Tories of planning to slash a host of pensioner benefits? Back in April the Tories criticised Labour for spreading “fears and smears” by claiming David Cameron would cut free bus passes for pensioners, scrap free TV licences and end the winter fuel allowance.

Now it has turned out that these leaflets were wrong, given that the pensioner freebies have survived the most brutal spending round for decades.

For good measure I should also mention that some Tory leaflets have also been questioned for their veracity, as in this New Statesman article from the spring.

What goes around comes around at infinitum.

Technically none of these examples are exactly relevant to the Woolas case, which was brought under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act.

Under that it is an offence to publish any “false statement of fact” in relation to a candidate’s personal character or conduct to prevent them being elected (unless they believed it was true).

But there are plenty of other instances of PPCs making personal attacks on their rivals.

Here is the judges’ conclusion, courtesy of PA:

Mr Justice Nigel Teare and Mr Justice Griffith Williams said Mr Woolas was guilty of illegal practices under election law. He had attacked his opponent’s personal conduct and character with statements that he courted Muslim extremists who had advocated violence against the Labour MP. He had suggested Mr Watkins had refused to condemn such threats in pursuit of personal advantage. Both statements were untrue and Mr Woolas knew them to be, the judges said. They declared May’s poll result as void.


telegramsam

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 14:14

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Anthony, here's a song about you

And another one


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 14:52

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telegramsam,

Thanks for the interest.


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 15:17

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DLeigh-Ellis

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 15:18

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that performance of Creep is great,

and I don't usually like Radiohead....


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 15:25

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DLE,
That video posted by The Bosnian Muslims is not Radiohead! They don't sing in German.


DLeigh-Ellis

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 15:27

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I know Anthony.... But I wasn't talking about what you posted...


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 15:38

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Oh sorry, DLE. I know that you often get a bit confused. Obviously, you are having one of your better days.


DLeigh-Ellis

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 15:41

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Im not confused mate, tsam posted a great tune... You posted something I didnt even bother to click on... No offence was meant but you clearly took some...

I'm having a great day, the one day this week I've had off work.. It's been lovely, thank you for caring..

No need to be so malicious dude.


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 15:55

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DLE,

When a fellow blogger posts an abusive ( you are a "Creep") link, one might imagine that you would have the decency to speak out. I am surprised that you didn't, and concluded that you condoned tsam's behaviour.


DLeigh-Ellis

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 16:27

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I don't think he was saying that 'you are' a creep. The song is about being unappreciated and lonely, feeling that ones 'specialness' is unappreciated....

Given your obsessive and constant blogging I think the implication was that you suffer from this feeling of lonesomeness... Not that you are in fact a Creep. A subtle difference I know, but I thought you were smart enough to see it.

I'm not here to stand up for you Ant, I'm sure you are quite capable of doing that for yourself. I commented on a good tune, because I hadn't heard it in a while and it was a pleasant surprise to see something of interest following one of your posts. It's you whose gone and got your tzitzit all in a twist.

I'm done with this beef, you need to learn not to take everything written online to heart.

Also, your constant need to start new posts makes it incredibly irritating when I am trying to look for something posted a few days earlier, perhaps you could limit yourself to two or three a day... Or is that simply not enough of an outlet for you?


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 16:46

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DLE,

It is abusive to post a "Creep" link. And you condoned it. I find your logic reminiscent of tsam's "Israel=Iran=a plate of hummus".

It is a pity that you don't find all of my blogs interesting. I attempt to show what is happening out there. Many people will find it unpalatable. However, I truly believe that they are essential reading and worthy of discussion.

But of course, you can discuss whatever they like. Older blogs are still operational.

However, if you find my blogs "irritating" then I suggest that you complain to Stephen Pollard.


telegramsam

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 17:58

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Spot on DLE. It's best we just ignore him from now on. No one owes him any thing. He'll probably just get bored and go and play elsewhere, maybe his mate's hatesite. I wouldn't complain about him - it would be counterproductive, the songs say it all.


DLeigh-Ellis

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 18:31

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To suggest that your blogs are worthy of 'complaint,' is extreme self-flattery on your part, as is calling them 'essential reading.'

You do give the impression of having nothing better to do than blog here four or five times in a day, so don't get upset if people call you on this.

If you call somebody 'confused' or suggest they 'are having one of their better days,' solely because you have misunderstood what they have written don't be surprised when they don't immediately leap to your defence. In fact, don't be surprised when they don't take you seriously at all.

With blogging as in all else, quantity is no substitute for quality.


Kahina

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 18:58

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The interesting thing about Anthony's links are that they are self explanatory and one doesn't really need to comment.... unless one doesn't get the facts.

Plus, the comments on the links provided are much more stimulating than those on the jcblogs. I just browse over the likes of tsam, dle, etc, - as I am sure more readers do.


Anthony Posner

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 23:10

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DLE and tsam,

I will, once again, let readers of my blogs draw their own conclusions.


DLeigh-Ellis

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 23:21

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That is the general idea....

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