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?
update: former Labour General Secretary Peter Watt posts rather sensibly about this, and he should know, hat-tip Iain Dale.


Jonathan said...

What next? Well maybe candidates will have to focus on what they intend to do, rather than make up scare stories about what the other parties intend to do.

At the moment I get leaflets saying "vote labour because the tories will do horrible things and a vote for lib dems will let the tories in". Sorry, but that's not a good enough reason. If I want to know what the tories are going to do, I'll look at their leaflet.

jane said...

Sound sense Jonathan, the electorate do not like that kind of thing - but my point was that this should not be a matter for the law

Augustus Carp said...

A few technical points fyi, ane...

1. This was a civil case, not a criminal one. However, the standard of proof was that required in a criminal case, ie the allegations hadto be proved "beyond reasonable doubt", not just "on the balance of probabilities".

2. The Electoral Court sat with two judges, as they were determining matters of fact, as well as law.

3. The Electoral Court is a specialised part of the High Court - and it is not possible to appeal from the High Court on matters of fact (which wee determined by the judges) and nor is it possible to subject the High Court to Judicial Review.

4. There is an outside chance of appealing to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis that, as there is no right of appeal, this must be an infringement of Mr Woolas' rights...but it's a long shot in the extreme.

jane said...

Gus: 1. yes I know, Phil Woolas is not a convicted criminal. 2. yes I know. 3. yes I know thereis no appeal on points of fact but did not know there can be no judicial review, to believe media reports Phil didn't either. 4. I suspect his case would in fact be admissible at the ECHR.

Was said...

My first introduction to Reading politics was the then leader of the council David Sutton spreading lies and smears about me in his final Katesgrove eve of poll leaflet in 2008. Didn't do him much good.

The trouble for Reading Labour is that if they were forced to print only the truth about their opponents they'd be completely shagged.

No wonder Labour supporters are so outraged by this judgement.

Anonymous said...

Yup. Well.
Peter Watts.

What Watts says in his post is all very well. In fact, very good. And I agree - oh PETER I AGREE with you!!!!

And when, unlike Phil Woolas, I was not guilty of anything - just on the end of a bullying campaign.

Well, Peter - so now you have experienced the 'treatment'.
But you - and now Phil Woolas - are now just too unimportant to bother about - just as I was.

I'd salute you Peter if you followed your own ideals of conduct in practice.


'Cannot be watchdog if howl like wolf'. Blake.

Anonymous said...

WAS - Who are you to suggest that Labour supporters are outraged by this judgement? I saw Woolas on numerous programmes and always thought he was a thoroughly shady and undesirable character. He struck me as someone who would do or say anything to keep in the Blairites. Good riddance to him..

Anonymous said...

I agree with Was.

Alex Chalmers said...

I think Mr Woolas deserved it. There is a difference between saying something about cuts or what will happen when you vote Tory and accusing your opponents of channeling illegal money and accusing them of links with terrorists ,surely?

jane said...

Hi Alex, good to see you here. Answer - not if it's true. You know you are not really allowed to have a dialogue with me, don't you Alex?

Anonymous said...

Was: I don't believe you when you say "my first introduction to Reading politics was...2008...eve of poll leaflet. You were mocking Reading politicians thirteen and a half months earlier.

Anonymous said...

Was? Mocking people?

Surely not .... !

Was said...

Anon 23:50 I was a mere Focus deliverer for my own street when I started muckspReading.

I'd only ever been to a planning committee (as a local resident) before I was elected.

Anonymous said...