What You Can Get Away With » phil woolas

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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(if any happen to be passing by this way…)

You might have heard that Phil Woolas is this week in an electoral court because of a legal challenge about his campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth during this year’s General Election.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the electoral petition, look at the copies of his leaflets that are available here and here (pdf files) as part of it. Now, ask yourself this: are you happy that Phil Woolas used those leaflets as an official Labour candidate? Are you happy that he has faced no disciplinary action or disapproval from the leadership of the party because of them? And are you happy that a man who can happily put out such leaflets remains an official Labour front bench spokesman on home affairs, including immigration? And if you are fine with that, just how far does a Labour candidate have to go before you’ll disavow their actions?

(links from Anton Vowl on Twitter, and further coverage of the electoral court is available via Nick Thornsby’s blog and Twitter)

UPDATE: Interesting post here from a Labour member wanting him expelled. However, what interests me is the suggestion in the comments that Woolas is involved with David Miliband’s leadership campaign – anyone know more about this?

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…is to find a candidate in the General Election with a website worse than this.

Of course, it could be argued that the site reflects the candidate – many people find Phil Woolas to be particularly offensive, so his having a website that feels like a calculated and co-ordinated offensive against your eyes is pretty appropriate. It’s nothing compared to what children detained in Yarl’s Wood have gone through thanks to his Government’s policies, though it’s nice for him to try and spread the suffering around.

And want a wonderful example of New Labour’s approach to criticism? At the bottom of the page there’s a line of text that reads “Problems with the web site? Click here to contact the webmaster” – which you can’t click on.

Oh, and contrary to Woolas’ claims (a Labour Immigration Minister being inaccurate with the facts? Surely not!) voting Lib Dem in his Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency doesn’t mean you get the Tories – it means you improve the chances of Elwyn Watkins getting the 5% swing he needs to unseat Woolas.

(Thanks to The Bureau of Sabotage for the link)

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