Woolas trial report: day three

This report is from the Lib Dem Voice court reporter. You may also like to read Nick Thornsby’s blog for more trial news

Mr Woolas took the witness box for a third day in a row to answer questions in rebuttal from his own counsel. He insisted that photograph of a demonstrators often referred to in Labour emails as the mad Muslims had nothing to the article beneath which referred to Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins pandering to extremists in the Labour leaflet called the Examiner.

Next to be called to the stand was Miss Rebbecca McGladdery, who was a disgruntled former Liberal Democrat worker. This witness had filled in a reply slip on the back of a Focus asking people to become volunteer deliverers. The tenor of her arguments with the Liberal Democrats, whom she had fallen out with, was that she was employed as a telephone canvasser and this was for only £3 per hour and therefore breaking the minimum wage legislation.

Mr Laddie QC took her through her evidence stage by stage. Had she answered an advert in a newspaper? No it was a reply slip on the back of Focus. Were you paid to deliver leaflets? No I was only paid for office work. This last point should be borne in mind for latter when it comes to Mr Fitzpatrick’s testimony.

Miss McGladdery was asked not to come back to the Liberal Democrat offices in late 2009 after she had had a row with another party worker. Sometime after this she presented herself to the Labour party in Oldham and Mr Woolas says in his evidence that she was to be treated just like any other constituent. It is odd then that a whole series of letters were written on her behalf by a Labour party worker. These included a whole series complaints to HMRC, Oldham Borough and Rochdale Borough Council’s Compliance officers.

There was also a complaint to the electoral commission on the expenditure which Miss McGladdery claimed was illegal as sum of £30,000 put into the Watkins campaign, but when pressed by counsel she could not explain how she came by this figure. She also complained to the RSPC about a Lib Dem worker who was neglecting her cat in order to work for the party. There is only one problem: the worker in question does not own a cat.

Miss McGladdery was asked if she had a row with a Lib Dem party worker by the name of Julie O’Brien but she insisted that “No she started a row but that does not mean I didn’t have a row with her.”

McGladdery was asked about her evidence to HMRC and when she was about to be formally interviewed by an inspector, that she was in the Labour office at the time she was supposed to be giving evidence. She admitted that letters were written by a Labour party worker that were attacking Mr Woolas’ Liberal Democrat opponent.

When Mr Joe Fitzpatrick was called to the stand there was a lengthy legal argument over whether he could also be charged with illegal practises as the law does not have prevision for charging the election Agent in an election petition. Because Mr Fitzpatrick was not on the original petition Mr Woolas could apportion the blame for any illegal act firmly at Mr Fitzpatrick’s door. The judges offered Mr Fitzpatrick the chance of consulting an independent counsel, but he declined.

Mr Fitzpatrick was asked how the £200,000 figure had been arrived at, and wasn’t this illegal as the combined long and short campaign expenses are in the region of £38,000. Mr Laddie pointed out that Labour’s own expense cost were in the region of 5p per leaflet, but Mr Fitzpatrick said that the gap was accounted for by the evidence of Miss McGladdery who was a paid deliverer amongst others. It will be remembered that she stated that no payment was made for leaflet delivery.

In an unprompted admission it was acknowledged that the Examiner and Rose leaflets did not go out in Asian areas. Mr Fitzpatrick alleged shady deals were done by the Liberal Democrats with the Bangladeshi community in order to get a new mosque. Irony seems to have passed Mr Fitzpatrick by, as he accused Liberal Democrats say different things in different areas to garner votes.

Mr Fitzpatrick was losing his temper at one point and asked “Is [Mr Laddie] allowed to call me a liar?”. The senior most judge replied that “He is making his case Mr Fitzpatrick”. Mr Fitzpatrick said that since the case started he was now inclined to report the matter to the police as he believed that the expenditure was £200,000. It is worth remembering that on Labour’s figures that our leaflets would cost 40p per leaflet.

Mr Fitzpatrick was taken through an Muslim political action committee MPAC which attacked Mr Woolas over his supposed shortcomings with the Muslim community and his hostility to the hijab. Mr Laddie pointed out that this was the type of thing which could have been put out by any of the political parties, including the Liberal Democrats. Joe Fitzpatrick spat back that “Even the Liberal Democrats would not stoop so low.”

One of the central questions of the case is when did Labour know Elwyn had moved into the constituency? Mr Fitzpatrick refused to accept that Mr Watkins was living in Delph even when he had reports of him living in rent accommodation in the village. He was merely pretending to live in the constituency according to Mr Fitzpatrick. Mr Laddie asked why didn’t you call around and see him as Elwyn offered in a press release? “I have never spoken to him because he’s the sort of chap who won’t speak to you.”

The case continues.

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10 Comments

  • Grammar Police 15th Sep '10 - 9:39pm

    James Laddie is not a QC.

  • Any chance of going thru the report and correcting the English? It is fairly incomprehensible in places:
    e.g. “Mr Fitzpatrick was taken through an Muslim political action committee MPAC”
    “Elwyn Watkins pandering to extremists in the Labour leaflet called the Examiner”
    “the expenditure which Miss McGladdery claimed was illegal as sum of £30,000 put into the Watkins campaign” huh?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 16th Sep '10 - 12:50am

    This reads as though it was written by John Prescott on a bad day. Has he defected?

  • Kevin Peters 16th Sep '10 - 2:13am

    you are of course all correct. Mr Laddie is not silk, but his fees will be more expensive after his perfomance here in Uppermill.

    Please do not tell John Prescott of any passing similarity, as it will only make him cringe. I doubt that hot coals and pincers are a good enough torture for me, as you poor souls have had to read my hurried and incoherent dribble.

    If by accident or mistake on my part I have entertained and informed, then you have my sincerest apologies.

    One item I forgot to put in my piece was Mr Fitzpatricks reply to Mr Laddie’s question where he (Fitzpatrick) went off on a rant about how Lib Dems said things to different audiences. In one instance something was printed in a leaflet and Elwyn gave a fuller outline on the internet. This contradiction as Mr Fitzpatrick saw it showed up the Lib Dem hypocrasy as only white people had access to the internet.

    I ask forgiveness but know that this is not possible as my crimes are so great. Nick Thornbury is better by far.

  • Derek Young 16th Sep '10 - 8:02am

    Stop slagging off Kevin’s reporting, please.

    It’s already becoming clear that Woolas and his agent in particular allow their visceral hatred of us to colour their judgement about what constitutes acceptable behaviour, have relied on guesswork to back up their claims of the costs and sources of funding the Lib Dem campaign, and made an outright false assertion about Elwyn’s living in the constituency because they couldn’t be bothered to check. This is a second-hand account, of course, and there’s more evidence to be heard, but despite being sceptical about this case I am beginning to believe that it’s possible that the result could be overturned. This would send a clear message, especially if Woolas were banned from being a candidate, and would for many years be a ready answer to other parties’ claims that WE are dirty or dishonest campaigners.

  • I was only able to attend court for one day, so I’m very glad that Kevin and Nick have put in the time and effort to bring us these long and complicated posts. They make perfect sense to me, perhaps becuase I am familiar with the case already. But if anyone can’t understand anything, if you leave a comment I’m sure your questions will be answered!

    I was in court yesterday to watch, and a couple of things struck me:

    1) Woolas was squirming and equivicating like nothing I have ever seen. Even the justices and Woolas’ own brief seemed to get annoyed when he wouldn’t give a straight answer.

    2) Rebecca McGladdery was completely out of her depth, and was self-contradictory throughout. Even though I have a dim view of the game that I believe McGladdery is playing, I felt sorry for her, and angry that Woolas had put her up as a witness.

    3) Fitzpatrick really came out fighting. When asked to explain previous accusations, Fitzpatrick answered with still more ridiculous accusations. I felt as though we were only a few questions away from the Lib Dems being accused of sheltering Shergar all these years. There was a good deal of tittering from the public gallery during this witness / respondent’s testimony. Including from Woolas – his brief turned round and told him to shut up….
    It was leaving the court that I remembered who Fitzpatrick reminded me of: Sergeant Hawkeswill from the Sharpe series. He had that same glint in this eye, going on the attack, and managing to be preposterous and dangerous at the same time.

  • Grammar Police 16th Sep '10 - 9:27am

    It’s not intended as criticism Kevin, but I think it’s hugely important to get even minor details of things like this right – spelling, grammatical and simple factual mistakes undermine one’s view in the accuracy of the rest of an article (even if only unconsciously).

    The stupid thing is that everyone makes this kind of mistakes.

    Also, given the nature of the proceedings and the people involved, it’s hugely important to be completely accurate in reporting on them.

  • James from Durham 16th Sep '10 - 9:45am

    Grammar police – “this kind of mistakes”? Glass houses, stones etc etc

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