Court challenge to Saddleworth result begins

By staff

Shadow immigration minister Phil Woolas faces a five-day fight in court to save his Oldham East and Saddleworth seat from his Liberal Democrat challenger.

Elwyn Watkins fell 103 votes short of Mr Woolas in Oldham East and Saddleworth this May but believes his defeat is due to foul play by the Labour incumbent.

An unusual election court is being convened in the constituency today, presided over by two high court judges.

They must decide whether Mr Woolas misrepresented facts relating to Mr Watkins under section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

Mr Watkins alleges Mr Woolas published election literature continuing misleading statements about Mr Watkins’ campaign financing and his approach to extremist voters.

The case is the first of its kind since 1911. If Mr Woolas is found guilty he will be open to prosecution and could find himself forced to pay a fine and be barred from public office.