Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins issues a legal challenge over Oldham election result

The Liberal Democrat candidate for Oldham East and Saddleworth in the 2010 General Election has challenged the result.

Elwyn Watkins has submitted a petition for a hearing of an election court, alleging a breach of the Representation of the People Act (1983).

From the BBC:

Mr Watkins claims that Labour campaign literature, published and distributed he says with the consent of Mr Woolas, constitutes a breach of the act.

He said it was clear that some literature “contained numerous misleading and erroneous claims regarding my personal character and reputation, and that of my campaign”.

Under the act, anyone involved in an election campaign 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.

Mr Watkins’ complaints centre on an edition of The Examiner newspaper, an edition of the Labour Rose, and something called an “Election Communication” leaflet.

His said his case would focus on three areas: claims that he did do not live in the constituency, stories about him “wooing” Muslim extremists and an article regarding campaign financing.

Former Labour minister Phil Woolas beat Watkins by just 103 votes, following two recounts.

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22 Comments

  • Terry Gilbert 28th May '10 - 2:22pm

    My first instinct is to say no-one likes a sore loser (I recall a certain Tory in Winchester who won a petition and forced a by-election after losing by 2 votes – didn’t he lose by 20,000?) But if Woolas’s campaign literature really lied, then perhaps this could get interesting. Not to mention setting a modern precedent – I can’t recall a similar case.

  • Grammar Police 28th May '10 - 2:25pm

    Labour’s Miranda Grell. If I remember correctly, that was about false statements when canvassing.

  • Outraged Liberal 28th May '10 - 3:16pm

    In response to Duncan Stott:

    This is not really on-topic, but nevertheless it amazes me how any Liberal candidates can justify imposing arms embargoes on Israel and not either the Palestinians or Syria, given that Israel is at war with Syria, that Syria is a brutal dictatorship which arms terrorists (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7138763.ece) and has built secret nuclear sites with help from North Korea (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7364269.stm). Meanwhile, Hamas is a brutal movement dedicated to destroying Israel altogether, which is already being armed by state- and non-state actors who disregard UN resolutions.

    Embargoing one party to the conflict over the others amounts to ‘picking winners’ and taking sides, which is not a wise thing to do. And if we want to pick winners and losers, why penalise the state that, for all its many failings, most closely adheres to liberal democratic norms? It is also likely that the less the Israelis feel that the West guarantees their security, the more likely they will be to support hardliners in their country.

    For these reasons, such a policy of embargos would be as misguided as what Britain did in the 1930s, when it embargoed arms to the Spanish Republic, thus allowing hardline pro-Soviet elements to gain influence, and bolstering both Franco’s international respectability and his ability to defeat the democrats.

  • Go get him Elwyn.

  • Mark Inskip 28th May '10 - 4:11pm

    @Terry Gilbert – there is the ‘sore loser’ risk, but in Winchester sole reason for the re-run was the closeness of the votes. In this case then if the courts determine that the election should be re-run because voters were misled by Labour literature then voters may react differently.

  • AIUI the nature of Elywn’s petition is that if it succeeds a by-election* would be caused by Phil Woolas’ disqualification which would be a completly different scenario to Winchester.

  • I love the article that claims the cost of all the Lib Dem leaflets would be £200 000 but when you look that includes distribution, which we obviously get for free thanks to volunteers and I’d imagine much of the printing would be done in house as well.

    Do they really think his agent would take the risk of allowing illegal donations or exceeding allowed election expenses.

    Its just pathetic and no wonder Labour claimed this was the dirtiest election campaign if that is the kind of dirty spear tactics they were using

  • spear=smear obviously

  • Phil Woolas – a leading member of the party that represents ‘progressive’ politics in this country. There are many idealists who still think that Labour is the party that represents their views: they might think again if they read the garbage that Woolas put out. However, I’m not sure I agree with Mark Inskip that the voters would look any more favourably upon us if we unseated him on a petition than they did on the Tory in Winchester. I think that the ‘bad loser’ syndrome would apply as much in the case of politicians being nasty to each other, which is how the public would see it, as it has done with other ‘unnecessary by-elections, and we would be punished at the ballot box accordingly. I have every sympathy for Elwyn though.

  • I also remember Winchester and was (and still am) a resident of that beautiful city. Unfortunately we had to tolerate 13 years of a homosexual (nothing wrong in that you may say) who has never denied practising coprophilia (look it up – you’ll be disgusted). It may, therefore, be better to let sleeping dogs lie and get him out next time round.

  • Roger, what business is his sex life of yours? I’m fully aware of what coprophilia is and although I personally find it digusting it’s not exactly harming anyone (aside from maybe himself) is it? If he was a rapist (I’m including paedophilia and bestiality under this) that would be the only situation in which it really matters, surely.

  • Oh Roger, how terribly, terribly upsetting for you!

  • Back on to the topic … the leaflets that Woolas put out were truly horrendous. It wasn’t robust campaigning, or a bit of rough and tumble. He made up many lies accusing Elwyn of, amongst other things, being a crook who money laundered and tax evaded and broke electoral law. There was a rather lovely photoshopped / composite image they used on the front page that made out that Elwyn had been led away by the old bill.

    Needless to say, all of this is bunkum. And Elwyn will prove it in court. And then I hope that Woolas and his agent are barred from public office for a few years. If there is a new election, Woolas would not be able to VOTE in it, never mind stand for it.

    And I had a neighbouring Labour MP (he has the public image of a gentle old man) jabbing me in the chest last night telling me about “YOU PEOPLE” – so I guess they know it’s going to happen.

  • I look forward to seeing David Heathcote-Amory following this example if Woolas is unseated.

  • Er, Roger, unless the MP in question has been forcing you to engage in coprophilia against your will, or trying to set up mass forced lessons in coprophilia in primary schools, or similar, I can’t see your problem with it. It’s his business alone as to what turns him on, and it’s not illegal. If it’s not harming anybody, and everything’s consensual, then it has absolutely no bearing on either his character or his ability to do his job.

  • Old Hack, leave Tessa alone! It took YEARS to uproot Heathcoat-Amory and his unseating was the high point of my election viewing!

  • @Old Hack – the deadline has now passed for H-A to file an election petition.

  • Not withstanding his hateful homophobia, Roger’s point doubly misses its mark (geddit) as Mr Oaten stepped down for the 2010 election and was replaced as a candidate by the fantastic Martin Tod. Sadly Martin didn’t quite manage to get re-elected, being subject to the same swing to the Tories seen in most of South England but there’s certainly every reason to hope next time might be different.

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