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September 15 - 212010
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Royal cutbacks Prince reorganises businesses in face of financial difficulties
Playing the prize for laughs The judges say this year’s Man Booker shortlist is funniest ever
WORLD NEWS P14
Iran nuclear threat NATO SecretaryGeneral calls for missile shield
Spreading the blame BP report points finger at Halliburton and Transocean
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Bonus Ball 6
Bonus Ball 28
There was one winner of Wednesday’s £2.6m jackpot and two winners of Saturday’s £5.0m prize
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Saints and sinners Our full MPs’ expenses database can be found online telegraph.co.uk/mpsexpenses
By Gordon Rayner Chief Reporter PHIL WOOLAS, the former immigration minister, could be thrown out of Parliament after being accused of breaking electoral law with a “toxic” dirty tricks campaign against a general election rival.
The Labour MPwas appearing at the High Court this week to face allegations that he told “devastating and far-reaching” lies about his Liberal Democrat opponent as he tried to cling on to his seat, which he won with a majority of just 103 votes.
MrWoolas is the first MP for 99 years to face a challenge to his election victory on the basis of publishing false statements about an opponent. If he loses the case, which is scheduled to last five days, he would face being disqualified by the court from sitting in the House of Commons.
MrWoolas denies the allegations made by Elwyn Watkins, the defeated Liberal Democrat candidate in the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency.
The most damaging claim is that MrWoolas deliberately played on racial tensions in his constituency by falsely claiming that MrWatkins was “in league with extremist Muslims”.
His team allegedly hoped that by exploiting the racial divide in Oldham, the scene of race riots in 2001, they would “bring out the white Sun-reading vote”. The incendiary remark was made in an email allegedly written by Steven Green, MrWoolas’s campaign adviser, which is contained in court papers seen by The Telegraph.
The MP’s election agent, Joseph Fitzpatrick, allegedly sent an email in the run-up to the poll saying: “We need … to explain to the white community how the Asians
Phil Woolas celebrates retaining his seat in May. His Lib Dem opponent Elwyn Watkins alleges that false claims made in newspaper-style election leaflets, below, swung the vote in the former minister’s favour will take him [Woolas] out … If we don’t get the white vote angry he’s gone.”
MrWoolas is accused of fighting a “dirty and dishonest” campaign full of “lies, smears and totally false allegations”. MrWatkins’s lawyers argue in High Court papers that: “MrWoolas, believing that he was going to lose the election, resorted to terrifying white voters into believing that there was an extremist militant Muslim element in Oldham, who were in cahoots with MrWatkins. He wished to convey the message that a vote for Mr Watkins was a vote for extremists.”
Emails between members of MrWoolas’s campaign team, obtained by Mr Watkins’s lawyers, detail their alleged plans to claim falsely that MrWatkins supported Islamic extremists and was “prepared to condone death threats” against MrWoolas to secure their vote. Pamphlets sent out by MrWoolas also falsely suggested that Mr Watkins was receiving illegal funding from abroad and had lied about where he lived, it is claimed.
MrWoolas is accused of breaching the Representation of the People Act 1983, in which it is an offence to “make or publish any false statement of fact” about an opponent. MrWatkins’s legal
team claims that “MrWoolas exploited the privilege of free speech in order to demonise his opponent and to mislead the electorate … the false statements were devastating and far-reaching, and were made in an exceptionally marginal constituency”.
MrWoolas, the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth since 1997, faced an uphill battle to cling on to his seat following disclosures about his expense claims by The Daily Telegraph last year.
He submitted receipts for items including tampons and women’s clothing, though he denied that he had claimed back money for the items on his expenses.
Continued from page 1
au pair. We all knew her because she used to hand out drinks at constituency social events.”
The Morris Chase report details an alleged “conspiracy” among Tories to undermine Mr Djanogly. The private detectives conclude: “There does not appear to be any current activity among the conspirators to revive the expenses allegations.
“This is because they do not have the time or resources to conduct investigations to trace the au pairs.” It added: “All four sources say that you have been damaged severely politically. Brown said, ‘Jonathan has lived to die another day.’” Their private report also alleged that another senior aide was too “scared” to speak out over “the whole inside story” of his expense claims.
Last week, Downing Street sources said Mr Djanogly’s actions “can’t be condoned”. The MP defended his actions because he wanted to identify the source of allegations in newspapers. In a statement referring to the private detectives, he said: “A report of their investigation was prepared and sent to me on a confidential basis and I am very disappointed to see the report released publicly without my consent. I would never have contemplated condoning anything unlawful and dishonest in the investigations, and the investigators have assured me that their inquiries were carried out in an entirely lawful manner.
“I am sorry if some people judge that I made a mistake. With hindsight I can see that I may have overreacted, but I was being subjected to very malicious, anonymous attacks on my family. I paid for the cost of the investigation myself and did not claim it back on parliamentary expenses.”
Morris Chase was in a controversy in 2007 when it was hired by a firm of lawyers for a civil case. It emerged that details of bank accounts had been obtained illicitly and provided to the client. Morris Chase said it had hired another company and had “not instructed” it to obtain the confidential data. The judge agreed that Morris Chase had not instructed anyone to obtain the information but concluded that it had “almost certainly” been obtained illegally.
Commons emergency debate over Coulson allegations, page 6