When Harriet Harman said "It is not part of Labour politics to try to win elections by saying things that are not true." regarding the decision of an election court to overturn the Oldham East and Saddleworth election, I thought it wasn't enough. I made my feelings known that I felt her, and other senior Labour figures, complete disregard for the racial hatred stirring content of the leaflets was unacceptable.
Now I know why she tempered her words, and I feel somewhat sympathetic to her plight. She tempered her words because even what she did say (that Phil Woolas' lying was bad enough to make him person non grata in the Labour party) was controversial enough with her Parliamentary colleagues. They have attacked her for abandoning a "colleague" so "quickly" (!).
To us Liberal Democrats, from our partisan position, this is laughable. But it's understandable that the Labour party stuck by Phil Woolas during the court procedures. However, once he was found guilty, they made the right decision to disown him.
The Labour MPs belief that it's unacceptable to have a court overturn an election result seems silly given it was based on a law passed by Parliament. This wasn't a court creating a new law or interpreting the law in a new and different way. This was a court just going by the book.
The other part of their argument ("it ain't over until it's over") is that Phil Woolas is still planning to appeal the decision and that the Labour party should stick by him until all possible avenues of appeal are explored. This would be fine if it wasn't for the content of the leaflets he issued during the May campaign. They can read them for themselves. By defending Phil Woolas they are, in part, defending these leaflets. They must realise this.
I saw many Labour activists getting angry with their MPs last night, I saw more than a few former Lib Dem voters saying things like "Thanks Labour MPs for reminding me that I shouldn't vote for your party ever again" and I saw a lot of left wingers wondering how MPs could get so passionate about defending a discredited party member when they don't seem quite so passionate about fighting "the cuts".
Harriet Harman called this correctly and the Labour MPs have called it very, very wrongly indeed. With letters like this, they are in danger of annoying their base, their new post-Coalition voters and just about everyone else.
I just hope the angry Labour membership are able to convince them to change their mind before they get any deeper into a pit of burning stupidity.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist