Trevor Phillips describes Phil Woolas leaflets as ‘not helpful’

Last week, Lib Dem Voice commented on Lib Dem candidate Elwyn Watkins’ election petition against Oldham East and Saddleworth’s Labour MP, Phil Woolas. Watkins, who lost to Woolas by just 103 votes, believes that false claims were made in the leaflets, including allegations that he was trying to woo Muslim extremists, and claims about the financing of his campaign by a wealthy Saudi businessman.

Now the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has entered the row about the literature published on behalf of Woolas during the general election campaign. Former Labour politician Trevor Phillips described some of the language used in the party’s leaflets here as ‘not helpful’.

According to Saddleworth News, Mr Phillips made his remarks in a letter responding to Oldham Council leader Howard Sykes, after a complaint sent to the Commission two days before polling day. Cllr Sykes said:

In a Borough where memories of race riots are still fresh in people’s minds, I believe that this type of inflammatory literature is incredibly detrimental to community relations and promoting equality.  We have worked hard in Oldham to build connections and understanding between communities and I do not want to see that undermined by the actions of any candidate in this election, especially one who has been the MP in our area for 13 years.

In his reply, released to the media today, Mr Phillips wrote:

I agree with you that some of the language used in the election publications you sent me is not helpful. The Commission has a mandate to promote good relations and as such encourages everyone, including political parties, to use language which will not cause misunderstandings or undermine community relations.

It is particularly important that the language used in the cut and thrust of political debate is not discriminatory or cause offence.

You can see details of  some of the leaflets used in the campaign at The Straight Choice.

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3 Comments

  • Those leaflets aren’t very impressive, are they? Especially not from someone who was at that time the Immigration Minister. Shocking behaviour.

    The Politics Show in the North West covered the legal case this Sunday – they seemed to be coming to the conclusion that Woolas is going to face strong legal questioning about his conduct. Good.

  • Andrea Gill 9th Jun '10 - 9:29am

    @Helen – Agreed, if it was maybe some new PPC fighting dirty to try and make themselves heard it would be different, but this was the Immigration Minister at the time, which just makes it despicable.

  • One wonders if the case is won and a by-election called, will the Tories stand aside for us?? 🙂
    One more for the coalition!

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