Friday, November 05, 2010

Old and Sad

I doubt that there will be many tears shed for Phil Woolas.  He was an odious tick at the best of times, and the ruling that his deeply unpleasant campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth breached the Representation of the People Act 1983, and that as a consequence the election will be void and Woolas will be barred from standing for any elected office for three years should probably be filed under ‘comeuppance’.
But the prospect of a by election won’t be one that exactly fills Coalition hearts with glee.  Old and Sad was a three-way marginal at the election.  Woolas won it by 106 votes over the Lib Dem candidate, with the Tories really not that far behind.  Ordinarily, one would say that it was an exciting prospect for all three parties to show where public opinion really is in the aftermath of the CSR.  But that’s rather the problem – the polls are pretty bleak for the Lib Dems (the Tories on the other hand can be a bit happier with the fact that they still lead most of them), and there must be a real chance that Old and Sad suffers a sort of Winchester effect.
But if the news isn’t great for the Coalition, it’s a sight worse for Labour.  Not only is it humiliating in and of itself for a former minister (and immigration minister at that) to have run a campaign run on such unpleasant, and borderline racist lines.  But to make matters far worse, Ed Miliband, in another stunning selection, appointed him as a shadow home office minister.  Given that this court case was ongoing at the time, you do have to wonder what on earth Miliband thought he was doing – it would have been easy, and much more sensible, to delay any such appointment until after the case was resolved.
Anyway, it has all rather blown up in Miliband’s face, and he needs to sort it out quickly.  I’ve not seen anything yet, but as Ben Brogan says, he needs to cut Woolas adrift pronto.  Ed Miliband was dangerously (although perfectly rationally) spineless over Ken Livingstone’s flagrant breaches of Labour rules over the Tower Hamlet election.  If he’s as supine this time round, something of a precedent will have been set.

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