Sometimes you know someone, know they are a good person and are completely shocked when allegations are made that they have broken the law. In such cases, it’s absolutely reasonable to hang on to your previous views of them until the outcome of the court case.
But in other cases, them being found guilty or innocent is not what should determine your view of them – for you already know far too much about what they have got up to in other respects and it ain’t good.
So it was with then Conservative leader William Hague and then London Mayor candidate Jeffrey Archer. At the time Hague fulsomely backed Archer he already should have known enough about Archer to know better than to back him. It didn’t take the later court case to show Jeffrey Archer to be the wrong person for that role; there was enough other evidence on the public record already.
So too it should be with Ed Miliband and Phil Woolas. The court case over Phil Woolas’s re-election this May is still outstanding and he may be found innocent. But whatever the courts decide, we already know more than enough about how he went about winning his re-election. As Nick Thornsby puts it:
In his election campaign, Phil Woolas published material that any right-minded person would find abhorrent. He claimed on leaflets that Muslim extremist groups were attempting to rig the election, and that his Lib Dem opponent was somehow in cahoots with them, and then, as we learned from the court case which I attended, his team delivered these leaflets solely to the ‘white areas’ of the constituency.
We know what Phil Woolas’s election leaflets said and we know from his own evidence in court that he knew about the leaflets, approved of them and stands by them.
That should have been more than enough for Ed Miliband to decide that sort of politics of religious division and playing up to divisions in communities has no place in his ‘new generation’ of Labour. Instead, he appointed Phil Woolas to be a Home Affairs spokesman – right at the heart of those very issues Phil Woolas has behaved so disgracefully over.
Eventually, the misjudgement over Archer caught up with Hague and seriously damaged his credibility. Ed Miliband fully deserves the same fate for his own similar blindness.