"It is vital to our democracy that those who make statements about the political character and conduct of election candidates are not deterred from speaking freely for fear that they may be found in breach of election laws”Is Woolas so stupid as to to be unable to tell the difference between knowingly telling lies and asking legitimate questions ?
Does Mr Woolas think free speech means you can slander anyone you want ?
Can he not see that you can win an election by reporting facts ?
Remember, Mr Woolas fought the 1995 by-election in Littleborough and Saddleworth, as most of this seat was previously known, using a caricature of his Lib Dem opponent as a druggie.
Peter Mandelson, who ran Woolas' campaign in 1995 said “After the campaign was over, not only our opponents but some in Labour would denounce our ‘negative’ tactics in highlighting Lib Dem front-runner Chris Davies’ support for higher taxes and a Royal Commission to liberalise drugs laws. For tactical reasons, I felt we had had little choice.”
Lord Mandelson went on: “Labour was starting from third place, and especially in a by-election, the bulk of Tory tactical voting was always going to flow to the Lib Dems. If we were to win, we would have to make that option as distasteful as possible.” That “highlighting” of those views on drugs led to the memorable slogan that Mr Davies was ‘high on taxes and soft on drugs.’
In another Labour leaflet they led with the story "By-election latest: Lib-Dems drop candidate after drugs vote.”. This story actually related to a candidate in Winchester and had nothing to do with Oldham.
In the same election, the Daily Mirror distributed a special edition for free within the constituency, with plenty of pro-Woolas material in it. Ironically, this was later found to have broken election law, although prosecutors decided it wouldn’t be in the public interest to pursue the case.
In d double dose of irony, Mr Woolas claimed in 2005 that Lib Dem opponent Tony Dawson was "unfit" to be an MP because he claimed that the Lib Dems had altered a photo that appeared in a leaflet. This was never proved and the Lib Dems denied that this had happened. Yet this was one of the charges made against Mr Woolas in 2010, and was something that was proven in court.
It only takes a short visit to http://www.politicalbetting.com/ to see the comments from Labour supporters who welcome the court's findings. Many ordinary Labour voters have found the campaigning from Labour in Oldaham to be distasteful and counter productive. There is a line which many people in politics push against, but few so blatantly step over it (although I feel the Dr Death leaflets distributed in Oxford West and Abingdon - not by Labour - in May 210 against Lib Dem Dr Evan Harris were equally as shameful).
I know some are arguing that this is a pointless by-election because Labour will easily hold it. This may be true, but more important than this, it gets rid of Woolas. I would argue that any new MP would be an improvement on Phil Woolas.
Labour will also be pleased of a by-election which will highlight their objection to the coalition's policies so far. A bad loss too for the Lib Dems would put down a marker to those Lib Dem MPs who have become too obsessed with the trappings of office rather than being Lib Dems.
Perhaps the one question mark is over Ed Miliband. You do have to ask, with the court verdict yet to be heard, and knowing the way Woolas had won his seat, why was he appointed to the Shadow Cabinet ?