That Phil Woolas will lose his seat (pending any last ditch legal challenge/judicial review) is sad news for the man himself but very good news for British democracy.
One of the things that struck me during my campaigning at the last general election was how little people seemed to care about the rules. I documented my own astonishing experience here. Electoral courts have been so few and far between that there has been no sense of consequence to deter people from bending the rules. Bending quickly becomes breaking. Consequences help focus the mind. This judgement should focus the minds of many.
If any issue should be a cross-party issue it should be this. The way we conduct ourselves at elections is core to our ability to lay claim to even be a ‘democracy’. I’ll put my cynicism aside and take Harriet Harman’s rationale for dumping Woolas at face value and offer full support for her stance. We follow the USA on many things but the drift to negative campaigning and attack ads is a road we should stop following – all the more when attacks are based on tittle-tattle, rumour or downright lies.
Many of Woolas’ colleagues now say they feel he was hard-done-by and worry that this judgement ‘could open the floodgates’. Good. Let the flood gates open. The unfortunate truth is that had this not been a wafer-thin majority then the case would never have come before the Court. Now that this precedent has been set it is my sincere hope that any future candidates who plays loose with the truth on the character of an opponent should be in fear of the result being annulled immaterial of the size of their majority.
Full respect to Lib Dem candidate Elwyn Watkin in risking all to bring this case. He has done the country a great service.