Supporters raised £30,000 fund for legal fight
12th November 2010: Booted out of Parliament and Labour Party, former Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has yet another chance to save his political career.
Woolas will make final effort to save his political career next week – after supporters raised £30,000 in 24 hours for his legal fighting fund.
If the former immigration minister’s application is thrown out, it will end Woolas’s career. But if accepted, he will need to raise about £200,000 to bring a full judicial review.
The development is significant as Woolas was last Friday stripped of his seat and barred from elected office for three years, in the first ruling of its kind for 99 years. He faces the prospect of a criminal inquiry.
He was turned out by the Labour Party last week, after two High Court judges ruled that he had spread lies about his Liberal Democrat opponent and enthused up racial tensions as he fought to save his seat at the General Election.
He had won from Elwyn Watkins by only 103 votes to hang on to his Oldham East and Saddle worth seat.
The shamed former minister had issued leaflets falsely claiming that Liberal Democrat election opponent Elwyn Watkins was pandering to violent Muslim extremists.
Woolas would need to raise £50,000 to convince the High Court that he had the means to fight a judicial review and was expected to have a hearing next week. The by-election in his former seat had been delayed after a surprise move by Speaker John Bercow.
Some of the legal experts believe the election law concerned does not give Woolas any right to appeal. But the High Court agreed to hear an unparalleled application for a judicial review of the election court’s decision. It will begin on Tuesday.
After last week’s ruling Labour said it would not fund an appeal by Woolas. But friends, including Labour MPs, launched a fighting fund, which has already raised more than £30,000.
Meanwhile, Commons Speaker John Bercow issued a ‘clarification’ to say that the political parties could call a by-election in Woolas’s former constituency, even though legal action was continuing. His conduct further divided Labour MPs.
Harriet Harman came under attack for saying Phil Woolas would not be readmitted into the labour party. Many got upset at Deputy Leader Harriet Harman for ruling that there was no way back for him in Labour politics even if he won an unlikely appeal.
While some others got concerned about the image of Labour, rallying for a man who had been kicked out of Parliament for spreading lies.
Labour MPs queued up to defend Woolas and attack Miss Harman. Backbencher Graham Stringer said fellow Labour MPs were ‘unanimously’ of the view that the comments made about Woolas went too far.
Fellow MP Michael Connarty confirmed that he asked Miss Harman to examine her conscience in a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party held on Monday.
On the other hand former leadership contender Diane Abbott said that Woolas was not a martyr and had certainly enjoyed due process. Writing on the Guardian website she said that the loyalty of Phil Woolas’s friends does them credit. But they need to try and see this how the public does.
Harman was also challenged at a meeting of the shadow cabinet yesterday, at which at least one shadow minister told her she was ‘wrong’ to say Woolas could never be readmitted to the party.
Meanwhile, Former minister George Howarth was approached by several MPs to organise a whip-round to help fund Woolas’s bid for a judicial review. He said one MP had offered him £1,500.
Shadow Transport Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said that most of them would respond to requests for help from mates. But Michael Fallon, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, said that the Labour Party’s defence of an MP, who had brought disgrace to politics, was extraordinary.
He added it depicted how out of touch they were that their party meetings were dominated by internal squabbling, not sorting out the mess they created. Left-wing Labour MP Paul Flynn also questioned the wisdom of rallying round an MP whose false claims were a disgrace.