Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Phil Woolas

For those not following the political news judges have decreed that a re-election for Oldham East and Saddleworth should be held after the former Labour MP Phil Woolas was found guilty of misrepresentation. So how does that work?

Well the original call came under section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 that

makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, that statement to be true.
Note that this says nothing about a re-election, but here's where it gets clever. If there are problems with an election anyone can create an election petition to be presented to the Election Petitions Office and make an application to the High Court. Downside is that it costs £5,000 which you either have to pay or show that you can pay - lose and you forfeit the money. This was done by the Liberal Democrat candidate.

Again so what? Well supposedly (because the Act in question isn't available online to check) one of the arguments that can be used is that a person won by making false statements about their opponent(s). So given a majority of only 103 and a guilty verdict under section 106 the judges automatically upheld the petition and called for a re-election.

Two laws, two acts; one result.