Court declare Labour MP's election void

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Two High Court judges have ordered a re-run of the general election contest in Oldham East and Saddleworth won by former Labour immigration minister Phil Woolas.

The specially convened election court ruled Mr Woolas' election to Parliament void due to illegal practices undertaken during his campaign. They found the 50-year old guilty of knowingly making false statements about an opponent.

The judges had heard that the Labour MP stirred up racial tensions in a desperate bid to retain his seat in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

His campaign team was said to have set out to "make the white folk angry" by depicting an alleged campaign by Muslims to "take Phil out".

Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins mounted the rare legal challenge over the statements made in a pamphlet and two mock newspapers distributed in the final stages of May's contest which Mr Woolas won by just 103 votes.

Giving their judgment, Mr Justice Nigel Teare and Mr Justice Griffith Williams said Mr Woolas was guilty of illegal practices under election law.

Mr Woolas was found guilty of attacking his opponent's personal conduct and character with statements that he courted Muslim extremists who had advocated violence against the Labour MP.

He had suggested Mr Watkins had refused to condemn such threats in pursuit of personal advantage. Both statements were untrue and Mr Woolas knew them to be, the judges said.

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