Far-right figurehead is latest candidate to confirm bid for seat left empty following Phil Woolas court case
Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National party, will contest the Oldham East and Saddleworth byelection, the far-right party confirmed today. Griffin, who currently serves as MEP for the North West, is the latest candidate to confirm his bid to enter the race for the seat left empty by Labour's Phil Woolas.
Judges ordered a rerun of the constituency election after ruling last month at a specially convened court that Woolas had lied to win his seat in May by 103 votes, exploiting racial tensions in order to defeat Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins.
Watkins took Woolas to court under the rarely used section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, claiming that the outcome was influenced by Labour leaflets making false allegations in an effort to sway the white vote in the constituency by wrongly accusing Watkins of wooing Islamist extremists and of not condemning threats of violence.
Woolas was stripped of his seat and banned from standing for election for three years, in the first such judgment for 99 years. He was subsequently expelled by the Labour party and earlier this month failed in an appeal at the high court against the decision.
The Labour party is expected to move a writ in the new year confirming the byelection date. Oldham East is a three-way marginal and the election will see the Lib Dems and Conservatives fighting against each other at the polls for the first time since going into coalition together in May.
The Conservatives today announced that Kashif Ali, who came third in the constituency at the May 2010 election, will stand again.
At the weekend Labour selected Debbie Abrahams, while Watkins will stand again for the Lib Dems.
Griffin's decision to stand comes after a humiliating showing for his party at the general election, when the BNP failed to win a single parliamentary seat at the general election, despite fielding more than 300 candidates.
The BNP leader stood in Barking, where he came third after polling just 4,916 votes despite a sustained campaign in the constituency.
BNP candidate Alwyn Stott came fourth in Oldham East at the general election, with 5.7% of the vote.
The decision by the BNP to field its leader in the race comes on the day that the party came under the spotlight for breaking electoral law in 2008 by "failing to keep accounting records sufficient to explain, with reasonable accuracy, the financial position of the party at the time".
The Electoral Commission said the party was guilty of a "clear failure" to keep accurate financial records for 2008, adding that it was "frustrating" that it could not impose a penalty on the party because the law at the time did not allow it.