Yes, yes, yes

Go read Anton Vowl on Phil Woolas:

It was Labour’s fault in the first place, for not booting Woolas out sooner. Those leaflets were evidence enough to see him off. The claim that the party didn’t want to prejudice the court case and so waited for the verdict is simply not good enough. You either think that publishing such leaflets is appalling, in which case you take action, or you don’t; you don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do. That kind of wobbling leaves Woolas and his chums with the defence that Labour didn’t kick him out until the court ruled, so if the ruling can be overturned, then everything will be rosy again.

It may be disappointing to see a democratically elected person be kicked out of office by the courts, but it’s more disappointing to see someone resort to dog-whistle racism and lies to try and win a tight election. Woolas knew the law (or at least he should have been aware of it) when he started his campaign, and – at the risk of using a fairly standard phrase you see everywhere at the moment – he had 13 years in government to change that law, should he have thought it was unfair. He didn’t, and neither did anyone else who is suddenly getting heated about the decision.

There is no absolute right to tell a lie, and get away with it, just because it’s politics and electioneering. It doesn’t chill political debate to call someone out for lying; it simply makes people less likely to lie in the future. We can wring your hands if we like, but I don’t find that tremendously worrying, in the cold light of day. And yes, Liberal Democrats and Tories do leaflets of their own that aren’t very pleasant. If you don’t like them, call them out. Whataboutery doesn’t work in this instance because everyone has the opportunity to complain about election communications. And there’s a world of difference between a dodgy bar chart and the kind of awfulness found in Woolas’s material.

Update: And don’t miss this either.

Solidarity and loyalty are fine and noble things. Loyalty towards someone who has disgraced your movement and your party is something quite different. It taints you, and it makes you look bad. If Labour want to carry on clinging on to Woolas, that’s fine. If they want a vote from me afterwards, they can go whistle for it.

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