Notorious New Labour Knobhead Phil Woolas is facing explusion from Parliament after a court ruled today that he’d broken electoral law during his successful re-election campaign in May. This is after he lied throughout his election material, which falsely claimed that his rival Lib Dem candidate was being “wooed” by Islamist extremists.
Indeed, it didn’t stop there: Woolas decided to centre his whole campaign around the “tough” line he’d taken as immigration minister from 2008-2010. He managed to weave a whole fantasy around this: that “militant Muslims” were waging a war against him in alliance with a local Lib Dem candidate and his party’s crazy plans to circumvent local planning rules to build Mosques in every street, and give an amnesty to “hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants”. The special election court’s ruling today means that Woolas will be barred from parliament for three years, and a by-election will now be held in his seat.
Woolas claims to have come into politics as an anti-racist campaigner – he joined the Labour Party in college and ran a “campaign against Paki-bashing”. He was elected in 1997, in one of the most ethnically diverse seats in the country, Oldham East. Phil said in 2008: “It’s had a race riot, it’s had a huge BNP presence and it’s a marginal seat. It’s a complete crucible. But we’ve never had a BNP councillor – I hope I’ve had something to do with that by getting in and getting dirty.”
It’s now fairly evident what Woolas meant by “getting in and getting dirty”. He didn’t mean confronting the BNP’s ideas, politically and in the streets. He didn’t mean proving the BNP’s politics to be based on lies and hysteria, division and hate. No, it’s now clear that he meant taking the votes of the BNP by seizing the ground of the BNP. And not by talking about real issues that the far-right do occasionally bring up, but by pandering to their obsession with “Islamic extremism”, immigration, and asylum seekers. The Labour Party were so impressed that, after years of scapegoating Muslim women and refugees, he was given the role of Immigration Minister in 2008. He proceeded with glee in his new role of kicking out desperate asylum seekers, attacking charities that offer vital help to them and appeasing the right wing press with his tough talk on “immigration caps” and jobs for the “indigenous population”.
Phil Woolas is a racist fuck, no mistaking that. He made a calculated decision that whipping up racial tension in his area – which as he helpfully reminds us, suffered serious race riots less than a decade ago – would be a sure-fire vote winner. Much of the commentary surrounding Woolas’ outrageous election material has stated that his leaflets read more like something the BNP or UKIP would produce than a supposed social-democratic party. But Woolas didn’t face victimisation or even official condemnation in his party – in fact his outright Islamophobia was applauded, with “lefty saviour” Ed Miliband appointing him as a shadow Home Office minister, responsible for immigration, in his new opposition cabinet!
They weren’t the leaflets of the BNP or UKIP, they were just the leaflets of a Labour Party beset by racist, anti-immigrant populism. All Woolas did was take twelve years of racist Labour policies to their logical conclusion andstuck it on a leaflet. What he said wasn’t much worse than what the wider party was proclaiming during the election – and then when Labour lost, the leadership became stuck on blaming the fact that their discourse on the issue hadn’t been right-wing enough, that they’d “failed to connect”. With the exception of Diane Abbott (who finished last with 7% of the vote), every candidate in the recent Labour leadership election was united in holding this view. Andy Burnham said of immigration, in a comment surely worthy of the BNP: ”People aren’t racist, but they say it has increased tension, stopped them getting access to housing and lowered their wages”. Go figure.
Burnham is lying – the Labour Party are convinced that most working class people are racist. No one would dispute that racism is a large problem in our society – but the way to get around this is to challenge and confront racist ideas wherever they come from, not pander to it through racist immigration laws and anti-terror legislation that serves little purpose beyond being a useful tool to harass Muslims.
Phil Woolas may have gone through a technicality of electoral law , but the ideas he represents are still every bit ingrained within the Labour Party.