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The Woolas episode has some unexpected implications

Since 1997, Phil Woolas and Michael Meacher have been the two Labour MPs representing Oldham in parliament. In spite of political differences, they have worked together on many issues and have shared an office. Here, Michael presents his perspective on recent events.

Of course MPs should tell the truth.   It is not for me to determine whether or not my colleague Phil Woolas did so now that the court has reached its decision.   I do however believe that he has been treated harshly, and that some of his traducers should take a wider look at this whole question of truth-telling because it could open up other embarrassing revelations.   It has always been a good principle: let him who is innocent cast the first stone.   I don’t of course have details of any other specific case, but it would certainly be surprising if among the other 649 MPs there was not a single instance where a Member had not strayed beyond the limits of truth and honesty in portraying a political opponent in an election.

This is unlikely to be an isolated case – indeed the only reason why this case came to light in the first place is that Elwyn Watkins, the LibDem candidate, had the resources to bring it.   He works for an Arab sheikh in the Middle East, so money was no object.

Nor have Phil Woolas’ employees been treated fairly when they themselves cannot in any way be held responsible.   They have been told by IPSA that their employment contracts terminated at 11am on Friday when the court gave its judgement.   That would seem illegal by excluding the statutory period of notice, and it also means they will no longer be available for completing the constituency caseload even up till the judicial review in a fortnight, let alone till the by-election.   Worse still, IPSA are now demanding that Phil Woolas pay back all his office expenses and staff expenses since the election in May, which could amount to some £70,000.   This is gratuitously punitive and unfair when the money was used in good faith and for the benefit of the constituency, not the MP himself.

But there are deeper questions about truth-telling raised by this episode.   What about those MPs, including some on the Front-Bench of all three parties, who flipped the designation of their homes saying that first one house and then another was their second home when they knew that one or other statement wasn’t true?    The cost the taxpayer in some cases tens of thousands of pounds, yet have never been brought to book.   What about Nick Clegg (and he’s far from the only one) who solemnly declared he would abolish tuition fees and then voted to treble them?   Or is it all right to lie to the electorate to win votes so long as you don’t lie about your political opponent to win votes?   How about a right of recall for those MPs who deceive the electorate by their dishonesty?

4 Comments

  1. Forlornehope says:

    You are a member of Parliament. Parliament passed a very specific law. It appears that Phil Woolas broke it. If you want to change the law then change it. Just stop whining and do your job.

  2. Matt says:

    Rather than presenting rather lame defences of Woolas such as ‘other MP’s lie’, why not answer the two central questions.

    Did he deliberately whip up racial tensions in his constituency in order to win the election?

    Should the Labour Party have suspended him for conduct likely to bring the party into disrepute when the contents of the now infamous leaflet became known?

    The answer to both questions I would suggest is Yes.

  3. Paul Walter says:

    “He works for an Arab sheikh in the Middle East, so money was no object.”

    What utter, blithe, lazy nonsense. Watkins recent earnings for the last few years were revealed in court. They were a fraction of the £800,000 – which was the cost of the whole case. The man put everything he owned on the line to pursue this case.

  4. Anti - Racist - Anti Islamiphobia says:

    Employees not being given notice of dismissal – this is important and I do hope their union (if they are in one manages to mount a case for wrongful dismissal. I also hoped that when labour was in power that it would manage to restore many of of the anti union legislation introduced by the Tories but it didn’t. And if it means staff like that racist Joseph Fitzpatrick gets the chop (as he who said said, “If we don’t get the white vote angry he’s gone.” )then I don’t care.

    “What about those MPs, including some on the Front-Bench of all three parties, who flipped the designation of their homes saying that first one house and then another was their second home when they knew that one or other statement wasn’t true? ” continue with the name and shaming of this but also think about some of those MP’s who stand for a workers wage …why not put some passion back into the politic?….

    “What about Nick Clegg (and he’s far from the only one) who solemnly declared he would abolish tuition fees and then voted to treble them? ”

    who introduced tuition fees in the first place? despite it not being in Labours manifesto! While it was in Labour’s manifesto to overturn anti trade union legislation?

    I wish labour had responded to the spending review as angrily as it has responded to one of the boys getting stuffed. Despite its irony, your article does point to a crying need to clean up politics and steer it away from the careerist greasy poll of greed and opportunism it’s become….

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