Phil Woolas loses seat legal battle

Phil Woolas loses seat legal battle

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Phil Woolas has been stripped of his Commons seat

Former Labour MP Phil Woolas has lost his High Court bid to overturn a decision stripping him of his Commons seat.

A specially convened election court declared void the general election result in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

It removed ex-minister Mr Woolas as the MP and banned him from standing for election for three years after finding him guilty of deliberately lying about a rival, Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins.

On Friday Lord Justice Thomas, Mr Justice Tugendhat and Mrs Justice Nicola Davies upheld the court’s ruling. The judges said that, although he was entitled to have one of the findings against him set aside, there had been “illegal practice” by Mr Woolas.

A spokesman for Commons Speaker John Bercow said he would “study the judgment” before deciding how to proceed.

Mr Bercow ruled last month that the case could not be discussed in the chamber as it was sub judice – seen as a signal that a by-election should be delayed. It came after a judge said the court action would be fast-tracked in a bid to ensure voters were not left for too long without an MP.

Labour – who by convention would move the writ for a fresh poll in the constituency – said at that point it would hold off “to allow the legal process to be concluded”. The decision on whether to press ahead now may depend on any decision by Mr Woolas to press the case further.

A Labour spokesman said: “The Labour Party administratively suspended Phil Woolas after the original judgment of the election court. Following the conclusion of this judicial review, the Labour Party will consider this issue in detail and whether further action is appropriate.”

The judges, sitting at the High Court in London, concluded that statements made by Mr Woolas about Mr Watkins “were not of a trivial nature”. The judges said: “They were a serious personal attack on a candidate by saying he condoned violence by extremists and refused to condemn those who advocated violence.”

Mr Woolas said after the ruling: “It is the end of the road – I am out.”

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