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Former Immigration Minister Phil Woolas campaign ‘to make white folk angry’ | Immigration Matters

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The BBC reports that the former immigration minister Phil Woolas set out to “make the white folk angry” in his election campaign, a specially convened court heard.

His defeated Lib Dem rival, Elwyn Watkins, is challenging his re-election as Oldham East and Saddleworth MP.

Mr Watkins claims the vote was swayed by Labour leaflets containing false claims, in the first case of its kind for 99 years.

Mr Woolas, who won with a majority of just 103 votes, denies the allegations.

He says he will “robustly defend” himself.

The court heard on Monday that diary entries kept by Labour MP Mr Woolas during the election campaign show he was “pretty convinced” he was going to lose.

Counsel for Mr Watkins Helen Mountfield QC said Mr Woolas was concerned about the effects of an anti-Labour swing nationally, the expenses scandal and decisions taken by him as immigration minister, adding: “Mr Woolas and his team were playing for high stakes and came up with a strategy to deal with the perceived Liberal Democrat threat which they themselves described as ‘risky’.”

“They set out to attack Mr Watkins personally and say whatever it took to turn the electorate against him.”

The court was told that false statements were made in three publications on behalf of Mr Woolas in the run-up to the election.

The BBC’s political editor for the North West Arif Ansari said Mr Woolas’s team would argue that the statements they made were true. Mr Woolas is due to take the stand later in the week.

Two High Court judges will rule on whether there should be a re-run of the Oldham East election, in a case brought under the rarely-used section 106 of the Representation of the People Act (1983).

Under the act, anyone involved in an election who “makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct” is guilty of an illegal practice – unless they can show “reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, that statement to be true”.

Saddleworth Civic Hall, where Parish Council meetings are often held, is temporarily becoming an election court – in the first case of its kind in 99 years – for the hearing, which is scheduled to last five days.

Legally, the onus is on Mr Watkins to prove his case if he is to win.

If found guilty, Mr Woolas could be fined and barred from public office, with a fresh election triggered. Source BBC.

Whilst in office the former Labour minister presided over the biggest overhaul of the immigration regime for 60 years, including the introduction of much of the points based system and Tier 4 for students.

See also:

Weekly UK Immigration News Round up 12 September 2010

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