Phil Woolas, a former minister in Gordon Brown’s Labour government, lost an appeal to overturn a court ruling that declared his election to Parliament invalid.
The High Court in London upheld a decision by a specially convened court over comments Woolas made during his campaign that suggested his opponent condoned extreme violence. The ruling paves the way for a new election for his seat.
“There is in our judgment a very significant difference between a statement that goes to the political conduct of a candidate and one that goes beyond it and says something about his personal character,” the court said today.
The election court last month ruled Woolas knowingly published untrue information about his Liberal Democrat opponent and said a new election should take place in the northern English constituency of Oldham and Saddleworth. It was the first time in 99 years an election result was overturned as a result of a candidate making false statements.
Woolas told reporters outside court today that his comments during the election were “legitimate political comment.”
“I don’t regret anything that has been said,” he said.
Lord Justice Roger Thomas said at the hearing that the judgment can’t be appealed.
Elwyn Watkins, Woolas’s opponent, said a new election date should be set as soon as possible.
“Now it is time to move on and for the by-election to take place,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “The people of Oldham East and Saddleworth have been without an MP for long enough. They need to be able to choose a new member of Parliament as soon as possible.”
Woolas, who won by 103 votes in the May 6 election, falsely claimed that Watkins had links to Muslim extremists and lived outside the election district, two judges ruled Nov. 5.
On the same day as the court decision, Woolas, who was appointed as a home office spokesman by Labour leader Ed Miliband in October, was suspended from the party.
The case is: CO/11578/2010 The Queen on the application of Woolas v Parliamentary Election Court For Oldham East And Saddleworth.