James Forsyth

Labour’s Woolas trouble

Labour's Woolas trouble
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This Phil Woolas business is fast becoming a rather large problem for Ed Miliband. Those Labour MPs who are organising a fighting fund for Woolas are effectively defying the party leadership. Remarkably, he is on course to raise £50,000 by Friday.

There is a whole slew of explanations for why Labour MPs are, to borrow a phrase, standing by Phil. First of all, the idea of judges overturning election results isn’t popular. Second, he’s a well-liked and sociable colleague, and no one who has fought a Lib Dem has much sympathy with their complaints about dirty tactics.

But after these explanations, we move into more murky territory. There is still some Brownite anger towards Harriet Harman for her dabbling in the Hoon-Hewitt attempt to force a vote on Gordon Brown’s leadership before the last election, and some of them do appear to be using her announcement that Woolas was no longer welcome in the Labour party to try and humiliate her. Others suspect certain people who are not reconciled to Ed Miliband’s victory of stirring the pot.

Whatever the cause, the Woolas affair is now becoming a problem for the Labour leadership. They need to get Labour MPs to shut up about it and fast.