The JC and the Phil Woolas affair

By Marcus Dysch, November 11, 2010
Phil Woolas

Phil Woolas

A key section of evidence in the court case which saw a Labour MP stripped of his job focused on a JC report of pre-election attacks on Israel.

At the specially convened election court last week, the former Immigration Minister Phil Woolas was found guilty of lying about his opponent on campaign leaflets. The court ruled that Mr Woolas had stirred racial tensions in the Oldham and Saddleworth constituency, which he won by just 103 votes.

He has been removed from Parliament and thrown out of the Labour Party following the judgment.

The High Court rejected Mr Woolas' request for a judicial review. During the hearing Mr Justice Teare and Mr Justice Griffiths Williams considered statements made by Mr Woolas and his opponent Elwyn Watkins concerning arms sales to Israel.

In March, Mr Woolas wrote to LibDem leader Nick Clegg, questioning his party's views on the matter after Mr Watkins had written to Muslim supporters condemning Israel's "disproportionate use of force" during the Gaza conflict.

The hearing studied the JC's report of the men's clashes.

The final judgment stated: "When the Respondent [Mr Woolas] raised the question during the campaign, the Petitioner [Mr Watkins] made clear in his own website and in his interview with the Jewish Chronicle in early March 2010, that arms should not be sold to either side in the conflict.

"It is therefore clear that…the Petitioner had not attempted to woo the extremist vote by calling for arms sales to Israel to be stopped but not arms sales to Palestine."

The judges were surprised Mr Woolas and his agent had been unaware of the JC report and would have expected his campaign team to have read the story to learn of Mr Watkins' views.

Mr Watkins was quoted in the story saying: "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.

"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."

Mr Woolas is attempting to persuade the Court of Appeal to grant a judicial review.

Last updated: 3:22pm, November 11 2010