|Minister of State for the Treasury
Minister of State for Borders and Immigration
4 October 2008 – 11 May 2010
|Prime Minister||Gordon Brown|
|Preceded by||Liam Byrne|
|Succeeded by||Damian Green|
|Member of Parliament
for Oldham East and Saddleworth
1 May 1997 – 5 November 2010
|Preceded by||Constituency created|
|Succeeded by||Debbie Abrahams|
|Born||Philip James Woolas
11 December 1959
Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, England
|Political party||Labour (Suspended)|
|Residence||Lees, Greater Manchester|
|Alma mater||Victoria University of Manchester|
Philip James Woolas (born 11 December 1959) is a British politician who was the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Oldham East and Saddleworth from his election in 1997 to 2010. He was the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration in the Home Office, as well as being the Minister of State for the Treasury. On 5 November 2010, he was found to have breached the Representation of the People Act 1983 in the course of the 2010 general election. As a result his victory at the 2010 general election campaign was declared void, he lost his seat in the House of Commons, and was barred from standing again for three years. Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, announced that Woolas was also suspended from the party.
Woolas was born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, on 11 December 1959. He went to Nelson Grammar School on Oxford Road in Nelson, Lancashire, which became Walton (Lane) High School when the local education authority (LEA) went comprehensive in 1972. The school is now Pendle Vale College since 2006 when the former buildings were demolished and re-developed for housing. After O levels, he went to Nelson and Colne College. He received a BA in Philosophy from the Victoria University of Manchester.
Woolas joined the Labour Party at the age of 16 and became involved in student politics through the Anti-Nazi League. Before becoming an MP, he was president of the National Union of Students from 1984 to 1986, a television producer for the BBC on Newsnight from 1988 to 1990 (where he became firm friends with fellow Manchester United supporter Michael Crick), producer at ITN's Channel 4 News from 1990 to 1991 and head of communications at the GMB trade union from 1991 to 1997.
He first won his seat for Labour in the 1997 general election, having contested the predecessor Littleborough and Saddleworth seat at a by-election in 1995, which was marked by Labour's particularly vicious and personal campaign, attacking the Liberal Democrat candidate, Chris Davies, as "high on tax and soft on drugs". Lord Mandelson admitted in his autobiography that they’d gone “on the attack”, writing “After the campaign was over, not only our opponents but some in Labour would denounce our ‘negative’ tactics in highlighting Lib Dem front-runner Chris Davies’ support for higher taxes and a Royal Commission to liberalise drugs laws. For tactical reasons, I felt we had had little choice.”
In 2003 he was made Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, and in 2005 moved to the Office of the Deputy Minister to become Minister of State with responsibility for local government, later moving to the newly created Department for Communities and Local Government with the same responsibilities. During this time he acquired a reputation for evading any questions surrounding the failings of the Local Government Ombudsman.
On 29 June 2007 he became Minister for the Environment at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He had responsibility for climate change, energy and sustainable development.
In September 2008 Woolas was criticised by the Daily Mail for giving a House of Commons pass to Deborah Dunlop. Dunlop was at the time married to Steve Morgan, who had been a business partner of Woolas's wife Tracey Allen at lobbyists Morgan Allen Moore. Dunlop was the director of a new environmental lobbying company. Bloggers repeated a report in The Mail on Sunday that the lobbying industry’s regulatory body said that Ms Dunlop’s arrangement with Environment Minister Mr Woolas clearly breached its code of conduct banning political consultants from holding a Commons pass or having ‘any involvement on behalf of a political party’. However, Ms Dunlop lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission, and the Daily Mail issued a clarification that the recently established lobbying company was in fact dormant during the incident. The paper also agreed that "A suggestion she had broken the code of the Association of Professional Political Consultants was the opinion of an individual member and not of the Association itself" and apologised for any misunderstanding
In February 2008, he raised the question of inter-cousin marriage as a cause of the high incidence of disability within predominantly Pakistani culture. The debate was welcomed by Ann Cryer MP who cited incidences in her own constituency. This debate is still continuing.
In the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009, Phil Woolas reportedly claimed expenses for items not allowed under the rules. Woolas said the items were on a receipt he submitted under food claims, but were not claimed themselves, and threatened a newspaper with legal action. The Legge enquiry into MPs' expenses cleared Woolas.
In February 2010, following the accusations of bullying made against Gordon Brown and other members of the UK cabinet, Woolas was quoted as referring to the head of the National Bullying Helpline, Christine Pratt, as "this prat of a woman" in a radio interview.
Gurkha veterans' resettlement rights
In spring 2009, Woolas was involved in a controversy regarding the rights for Gurkhas to settle in the United Kingdom. On 24 April 2009, Woolas proposed a new settlement for Gurkhas who were discharged before 1997. According to The Economist:
Veterans would be allowed to settle only if they met one or more conditions based on length of service, gallantry or related illness. Many of the requirements seemed designed to frustrate: for example, one way to qualify automatically was by soldiering for at least 20 years, though most rank-and-file Gurkhas serve for only 15. Another was to prove that a long-term medical condition was caused or worsened by active service; a tall order for those whose injuries were sustained decades ago.
These proposals later were denounced in a vote at the House of Commons, with many Labour MPs voting across party lines. Woolas was later confronted at the BBC Westminster studios by the actress Joanna Lumley, the face of the Gurkha Justice Campaign. After Ms Lumley pursued him around the studio, the pair held an impromptu press conference in which she pressured him into agreeing to further talks over the settlement rights of Gurkhas. On 21 May, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that all Gurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain. Gurkhas serving after 1997 had been given UK settlement rights in 2004.
Woolas stated that cost was a prime consideration: "Our estimate is £1.4 billion, and I remind the House that that would come from the defence budget." However, according to a Freedom of Information request, the only impact on the Defence budget has been £20,000 per year to set up and run the settlement office in Kathmandu.
Labour leadership election 2010
Woolas was re-elected in the 2010 General Election, although the result would later be overturned by an election court. Woolas gave his backing to close political ally David Miliband and represented him at events throughout the country. The Times described Woolas as "a campaign fixer for Mr Miliband". However, Woolas officially nominated Diane Abbott, at the request of David Miliband. Woolas said "I nominated her as an act of pluralism. We thought it would send a strong signal that David will be an inclusive leader."
Re-election 2010 and election court case
In his 2010 re-election campaign, Woolas's campaigning methods were criticised by his Liberal Democrat opponents and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK). Critics accused him, among other things, of "inflaming racial tensions" in an area that has already known race riots. Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and former Labour politician, described some of the language used in the party’s leaflets as "not helpful."
Woolas and his agent, Joe Fitzpatrick, were also responsible for photo manipulation of images in his election addresses. In one case they manipulated an image to show his Liberal Democrat opponent Elwyn Watkins in front of armed police, allegedly to imply Watkins had been arrested. This was a composite image, consisting of a portrait of Watkins and a photograph of armed police patrolling London. The Metropolitan Police insignia was also airbrushed from a female officer's jacket.
Woolas won the election and was returned to Parliament with a majority of 103 votes – down from 3,590.
Following the election of Ed Miliband as the Labour Party Leader, Woolas was reappointed to the immigration brief on the shadow front bench team. The New Statesman said it was a "bizarre decision" as Woolas had "run one of the most disgraceful election campaigns in recent history".
Election court case
On Friday 28 May 2010, Woolas's Liberal Democrat opponent, Elwyn Watkins, issued an election petition against the result under section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which makes it illegal to make false statements of fact about a candidate. Watkins claimed that leaflets issued by Woolas falsely portrayed him as taking unlawful foreign donations, and linked him to Muslim extremists.
During the court case a number of emails between Woolas and his campaign team emerged. In one, Woolas's agent and former Labour councillor, Joseph Fitzpatrick emailed Woolas and Steven Green, the MP’s campaign adviser, to say: "Things are not going as well as I had hoped ... we need to think about our first attack leaflet." A reply from Fitzpatrick said: "If we don’t get the white vote angry he’s gone." Some have criticised these tactics in light of significant existing racial tensions in the area.
The court hearing finished on Friday 17 September 2010, with the judges reserving their judgement until 5 November 2010. On that day Woolas was found to have breached section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The judges ruled that a fresh election for the seat should be held. In a statement released through his lawyer, Woolas stated that "this election petition raised fundamental issues about the freedom to question and criticise politicians" and that it "will inevitably chill political speech".
Phil Woolas applied for a judicial review into the ruling, but as the Labour Party withdrew its support he had to finance it himself, and he started to ask for donations. The High Court rejected his request for a judicial review. Woolas launched a second judicial review, technically a renewed application for permission to seek judicial review, and was heard in person at the High Court on 16 November 2010. The judges' decision took longer than expected, with them saying that there were "difficult questions to resolve".
Following the initial court result, Woolas received goodwill messages from former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown and from Cherie Blair, wife of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Labour MP Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) was vocally supportive and criticised Harman and the party for suspending Woolas.
A decision on this second request was published on 3 December 2010. Woolas was accompanied to court by the Labour Shadow Health Secretary John Healey. The court granted Woolas permission to bring judicial review and that review overturned one of the three breaches of the section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 found by the Election Court. The other two breaches stood: "this does not affect the certificate as the findings of an illegal practice in relation to the other two matters cannot be impugned". On leaving court, Woolas said, "It is the end of the road – I am out." A by-election to elect a new member of parliament for his former seat was held on 13 January 2011, and won by the Labour Party candidate Debbie Abrahams.
After the review ruling, a Labour spokesman said, "The Labour party administratively suspended Phil Woolas after the original judgment of the election court. Following the conclusion of this judicial review, the Labour party will consider this issue in detail and whether further action is appropriate." In March 2011 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it would not bring criminal charges against Woolas as the finding of the Election Court already disqualified Woolas from holding elected office.
Woolas, a Manchester United F.C. and Lancashire County Cricket Club supporter, lives in Lees, Greater Manchester. Woolas is married to events organiser and ex-lobbyist Tracey Allen, who was a founding partner of Morgan Allen Moore lobbyists.
Woolas is a director of two organisations – Boothwood Partners, an environmental consultancy, and Wellington Street Partners, a political lobbying partnership with former MPs Paul Keetch (Lib Dem) and Sir Sydney Chapman (Cons).
- Miranda Grell (Labour councillor disqualified under same law)
- Phil Woolas. London: BBC News. 30 March 2006. Retrieved 28 July 2007.[dead link]
- Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard, 8 November 2010 : Column 1". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
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- [dead link]
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- "David Miliband's support: 104 MPs, 6 MEPs, 165 CLPs, 2 TUs, 1 SSoc | LabourList.org 2.0.2". LabourList.org. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860). "Disgusting Islamophobia: Woolas Smears MPACUK with Fake 'Death Threat' Leaflet | MPACUK – Empowerment through political participation". Mpacuk.org. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
- Hope, Christopher (5 May 2010). "General Election 2010: Immigration minister Phil Woolas accused of inflaming racial tensions in seat". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- Equality Commission Chief Criticises Woolas Leaflets http://www.saddleworthnews.com/?p=2140
- "Election leaflets delivered in Oldham East and Saddleworth". The Straight Choice. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
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- Rebecca Camber (14 September 2010). "Labour MP Phil Woolas accused of stirring up race hate to win white vote". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 5 November 2010.
- "Court reserves judgement over Phil Woolas re-election". BBC News. 17 September 2010.
- "Watkins v Woolas 2010 EWHC 2702 (QB)". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. 5 November 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
- "Judges order election re-run". BBC News. 5 November 2010.
- Polly Curtis, Whitehall correspondent (5 November 2010). "Phil Woolas immigration leaflets case: high court orders election rerun in Oldham East | Politics | guardian.co.uk". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 November 2010.
- "BBC News – Judges order election rerun in ex-minister's seat". BBC. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
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- Woolas loses his appeal
- Phil Woolas loses bid to overturn election court ban
- Oldham East by-election to be held on 13 January
- Phil Woolas loses bid to overturn court decision removing him from parliament, by Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian, 3 December 2010
- "Phil Woolas prosecution ruled out by CPS". BBC News. 21 March 2011.
- "Phil Woolas". labour.org.uk. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
- SOPHIE BARKER, PR Week UK, 4 June 1999, 00:00 am (4 June 1999). "STOP PRESS: Morgan Allen Moore promotes two to board – PR and Public Relations news". PR Week. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Sophie Barker (4 June 1999). "STOP PRESS: Morgan Allen Moore promotes two to board – advertising news – Campaign". Campaignlive.co.uk. Retrieved 14 September 2010.[dead link]
- "Boothwood Partners Website". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- "Wellington Street Partners". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- Guardian – Politics – Philip Woolas: Electoral history and profile
- TheyWorkForYou.com – Phil Woolas MP
- Article in Public Service Review: European Union issue 15
- Phil Woolas: Times article on his fight against racism which inspired views on limits on immigration
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Oldham East and Saddleworth
1997 – 5 November 2010
|President of the National Union of Students
|Minister of State for Borders and Immigration
and Minister of State for the Treasury