Woolas suffers early setback in legal bid

By Ian Dunt

Phil Woolas has had an early setback in his bid to overturn a court judgement stripping him of his MP status.

Judge Mr Justice Silber said Mr Woolas should appeal the judgement against him – not seek a judicial review.

The decision came on a dramatic day for the former immigration minister, who shocked parliamentarians by returning to Westminster just as Speaker John Bercow stood up in the Commons to rule on the case.

Mr Bercow had been widely expected to confirm when the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election would take place but instead he effectively ruled the matter sub judice, meaning it could not be debated in the chamber at that time.

Observers took that to mean that Mr Woolas’ legal avenues had to be used up before another race took place in the constituency.

The contest will be the first test of the coalition in power, although Labour is favourite to keep the seat.

Solicitor Gerald Shamash said the Woolas team were applying for judicial review despite a high court judge saying it was the wrong legal manoeuvre.

Judge Mr Justice Silber said the decisions of High Court judges sitting in that capacity are not subject to judicial review and should instead be appealed.

“It is correct [that the judicial review request has been lost] but we are renewing it immediately. It was not about the substance, it was about the jurisdiction,” Mr Shamash responded.

“We say it is and we think he has got it wrong.”

Mr Woolas has been barred from returning as a Labour MP regardless of the outcome of the review, with deputy leader Harriet Harman not holding back in her criticism of the former immigration minister over the weekend.