Labour MP Phil Woolas was banned from Parliament and the election result in the area he was representing was scrapped in the courts after he was found guilty of making false statements in leaflets during May’s general election campaign.
As a result, a new by-election has been ordered in the Oldham East and Saddleworth seat, pending an appeal. Mr Woolas, a former Home Office minster, was one of Labour’s more controversial MPs in the last Parliament, and his alleged racist remarks, particularly against Muslims on the vexed immigration issue, caused a lot of offence, even from many within his own party. But it was the false electoral leaflet issue, brought by his defeated Liberal Democrat opponent Elwyn Watkins, which eventually brought him down.
Labour, while embarrassed by this, should be thankful that a potential thorn in leader Ed Miliband’s side has been removed before he could do much more damage to his party. Why on earth did he appoint him shadow immigration minister? This is yet another example of the party kicking themselves in the foot, and it has given the Coalition government another stick to beat them with.
If Woolas was banned from standing for Labour then, this would have never come to court. Now the party faces heavy electoral defeat in the re-run of the election in which Woolas’ actions, instead of the Coalition’s decisions on the deficit and the economy, will become the issue on the doorstep.