Two High Court judges have ordered a rerun of this year's General Election campaign in the Greater Manchester constituency of shadow immigration minister Phil Woolas.So Woolas feared losing the election, and made statements about his opponent that were untrue, and which he knew to be untrue. Stripped of judge-speak, that says he lied repeatedly and deliberately to gain an advantage over an opponent. So far, so typical of New Labour. I am rather heartened by this news. After cash-for-honours and the rest, I had begun to despair that politicians would ever be brought to the kind of justice that the rest of us live under every day of our lives.
Mr Woolas won the Oldham East and Saddleworth seat by 103 votes over Liberal Democrat rival Elwyn Watkins.
But he has been found guilty of knowingly making false statements about Mr Watkins in campaign literature, and faces a three year ban from the Commons.
What intrigues me, though, is Woolas's response to the judgement:
In a statement, he said the judgement "raised fundamental issues about the freedom to question politicians ... It is vital to our democracy that those who make statements about the political character and conduct of election candidates are not deterred from speaking freely for fear that they may be found in breach of election laws."
This is arrant nonsense. The whole purpose of election law is to ensure that candidates cannot speak freely, but must strive to ensure that what they say is truthful and fair. What he is saying is that (presumably) he is in support of laws to make sure that elections are fair, as long as they don't apply to anyone.
I suppose you could argue that it is vital for criminals to be able to steal people's property without being deterred from doing so by the fear of being found in breach of the law against theft. It would make as much sense.
It says a lot about Ed Miliband's judgement that he appointed him to the Shadow Cabinet before the result of the Election Court was known. He must have thought the outcome was a formality. I am glad that Justices Teare and Williams thought otherwise.