By Jonathan Isaby
Breaking news just reaching me is that judges have declared the election contest in Oldham East and Saddleworth in May as void.
The contest was won by Labour's Phil Woolas - re-appointed a frontbencher by Ed Miliband just a few weeks ago - who beat his nearest rival, a Liberal Democrat, by 103 votes.
But the defeated Lib Dem challenged the result in the first case of its kind for 99 years, claiming that Woolas's Labour leaflets had contained a variety of false claims about him.
The result was:
Woolas (Lab) - 14,186
Watkins (LIb Dem) - 14,083
Ali (Con) - 11,773
Stott (BNP) - 2,546
Bentley (UKIP) - 1,720
Nazir (Christian) - 212
More news and reaction as it happens.
The Guardian reports that the court "upheld the claim by Elwyn Watkins that Woolas knowingly made false statements":
Watkins claimed that in his election materials Woolas lied about his involvement with Muslim extremists, his campaign funding, and his intention to live in the constituency.
Watkins accused Woolas of stirring up religious divisions in his election campaign in a desperate attempt to secure the election, which Woolas did win, but only by 103 votes. In one leaflet, Woolas's campaign accused Watkins of "wooing" extremist Muslims.
The court saw in September confidential emails between Woolas's team, which included the line: "If we don't get the white folk angry he's [Woolas] gone."
It seems that Woolas intends appealing against the decision, so confusion remains as to whether or not he will immediately be disqualified from the Commons.
Meanwhile, Tory chairman Baroness Warsi has issued a statement questioning Ed Miliband's judgement in appointing him a shaodw minister:
“This ruling exposes Ed Miliband’s terrible misjudgement. He was fully aware of Phil Woolas’s despicable and inflammatory campaign but still appointed him to a highly sensitive role on his front bench. After failing to act when Ken Livingstone directly contravened party rules, and dithering over whether to attend the TUC rally, Labour has another leader who’d rather duck a difficult decision than show real leadership.”
It would appear that the Speaker will have to make a call on Monday as to whether Woolas can remain in the Commons pending further legal machinations. Meanwhile, Ladbrokes make Labour 1/3 favourites to retain the seat at a by-election, with the Conservatives on 7/2 and the Lib Dems on 8/1.