update: former Labour General Secretary Peter Watt posts rather sensibly about this, and he should know, hat-tip Iain Dale.
Monday, 8 November 2010
I used to know Phil Woolas quite well, we spoke often. He once referred to John Howarth, whom he knew quite well at one stage, I believe they were colleagues, as a "snake". When the case against him, of a breach of electoral law by knowingly misrepresenting what his opponent's views were and purveying untruths in his election literature, began in September, Mr Salter was quick to jump to Phil Woolas' defence, trumpeting in the local newspaper his "high regard". Since the verdict he has had nothing to say from his exile in Australia however. Harriet Harman, now that Woolas has been found guilty, has been quick to condemn him (Woolas not Salter) as a liar, though others in the party have been less willing. I do not agree with Harriet btw. Lying is always a bad thing to do, in politics as anywhere else. People think politicians lie all the time, in fact they rarely do, because it is dangerous to the career. If you tell an outright lie you are going to get found out, sooner or later. Like Mr Salter was when he lied about his vote on the Iraq war. So Phil should not have done it. If what he published really was untrue, and his LibDem opponent was not the liar. But he should not have been found guilty of an offence (not a criminal offence) and removed from his job and banned from doing it again for three years. That is a disgrace. That is not what the law should do. He could probably go to a supra-national court if he does not get leave for judicial review. And I believe in case-law terms this has opened the way for any disgruntled loser of an election to say that his opponent said Horrid Things about him and should thus be removed. What next? Going to court if you don't like the elected candidate's face?