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Should Phil Woolas be in the party, never mind on the front bench?

The decision to appoint Phil Woolas to the Home Office shadow ministerial team, to speak on immigration and race relations beggars belief. Sunny Hundal yesterday made a cogent case at Liberal Conspiracy for why he is unfit to be on the Labour front-bench. On the one hand, Mr Woolas argues that one can have a debate about immigration control without being racist and the issue of immigration should not therefore be conflated with debates on race and extremism. On the other hand, he and his campaign team deliberately mixed issues of race, religion, “extremism” and “militancy” with immigration for electoral advantage. In doing so in Oldham, he not only borrows the tactics of the BNP, EDL and others of their ilk, but he flagrantly ignores the recommendations of the Richie Report into the Oldham disturbances:

The BNP has exacerbated problems and undoubtedly by distribution of crude leaflets and other activity done much to stir up tensions. The mainstream political parties have a big role to play in countering this threat, as do churches and other organisations.” (§3.17, p10)

The crude leaflet above, for example, clearly mixes immigration, Islam and extremism, with a highly emotive image with no relevance to Oldham  that can only have been chosen to incite racial and religious hatred.

Don Paskini at Liberal Conspiracy is not the only person to suggest that Mr Woolas should be expelled from the party for bringing Labour into disrepute — senior memberts of the NEC have been heard to say the same. No wonder Mike Smithson at politicalbetting.com asks whether this is the new leader’s first big mistake:

The evidence that came up about “seeking to get white folk angry” hardly reflected well on Labour. Even if Woolas is cleared what sort of message does this send out about EdM’s approach to this ultra-sensitive area? And what does it say about possible future relations with the Lib Dems?

Do we stand by Phil? Absolutely not.

9 Comments

  1. susan press says:

    Totally agree. What on earth is Ed Miliband playing at? If this is the “new generation” I am not impressed.

  2. Jeremy Sutcliffe says:

    The “jury” is out. Let’s wait and see.

    As a Labour Party activist in Oldham I have views on this issue but I’m not saying anything at this stage and I’m more than disappointed that an on line forum that is closely related to Oldham’s other Labour MP should make these comments.

    It isn’t appropriate

  3. dilys fletcher says:

    “the jury may well be out” but mine isn’t. In my many years in the Party I have yet to meet a more decent commited MP than Phil Woolas. he has done more to help, support and further the ambitions of the Asian community in not only this CLP but the entire Borough He did not deserve the hate and death threats from these madmen, who incidently didn’t just happen to chance on Oldham but were invited in to do their hateful propaganda by elements within this town seeking to further their own agenda. Shame on them …and before you ask I too am from a ethnic minority group in this town who suffer similar abuse to the filth poured on on Phil Woolas.and if senior members of the NEC have those views about expulsion they should have the courage of their convictions and speak up instead of having someone else parrot their views for them.

  4. Jon Lansman says:

    The views are mine, Jeremy, and I decided, as editor, to publish them without reference to Michael Meacher. I have not commented on Phil Woolas’s legal case and leaflets up to now in spite of the fact that we have covered race and immigration issues before. However, his re-appointment by a new leader (one we continue to support) to speak on behalf of the party on issues of race and immigration means that, in my judgement, we can avoid doing so no longer.

    And, Dilys, no politician deserves death threats but that is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether he has brought the party into disrepute and is an appropriate person, given what we now know were the nature of his campaign objectives, methods and publicity materials, to speak for Labour on race and immigration. I think the leaflet pictured above speaks for itself.

  5. Marcus Keller says:

    Phil has long been a committed opponent of both the BNP and EDL. He has consistantly and personally supported the anti racist movement and individual victims of fascism speaking out locally in public on behalf of Searchlight.

    The campaign in Oldham East was fiercely fought and as I recollect the Lib Dems played a heavy race card against Phil, very early on, attempting to use Palestine cynically as a hook to catch the muslim vote. Gossip, rumour and innuendo were definitely deployed by the Lib Dems as political weapons.

    The legal judgement will be available on the 5th November.

    I consider the comments in this and other blogs injudicious, definitely one sided and really unfair.
    It would have been far better and fairer to have waited until that judgement was in and we could have a debate with all the evidence before us.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      This isn’t about the Lib Dems, Marcus, nor the case. It’s about Labour’s choice of campaign tactics and materials in Oldham East although I accept that they have been revealed as a result of the case. Is the leaflet above a legitimate way of dealing with race and immigration? Or does it bring the party into disrepute? I notice that no Labour commentator on this or any other site has dealt with those questions.

  6. Matthew Stiles says:

    “I think the leaflet pictured above speaks for itself.”

    Totally agree. The leaflet attacks the Lib Dems on their immigration policies and uses an image of a Islamic extremist. It’s on a par with, or even worse than, papers like the Express and Mail.

  7. paul canning says:

    There is another reason why he shouldn’t have been appointed – his record as a Minister. Ed Miliband spoke often about breaking with Labour’s mistakes and the record on asylum should be seen as one of them.

    Woolas (and Hillard) defended the indefensible – like child detention and telling gay asylum seekers to ‘go home and be discrete’. In having Woolas shadow his former post Miliband is saying Labour policy was correct, isn’t he?

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