What does an election agent get for his pains? The joke (well, election candidates regard it as a joke) is that he goes to jail if the election rules get broken.
This is the usual practice anyway. In the case of most election offences it is the agent who is liable for failure to observe the law. But not, it seems, in the case of Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. By declaring that the result of the May 2010 election in Oldham East and Saddleworth was null and void it seems to be only the candidate who loses out.
The agent for Phil Woolas was Joe Fitzpatrick. I thought him one of the most arrogant councillors I had ever come across when I first met him 20 years ago. My views were confirmed when he, then as Oldham Council's housing committee chairman, seemed almost to take pleasure in admitting "I LIED!" in response to questions from the Oldham Evening Chronicle about why he had changed his vote just days after telling constituents in Holts Village - a council estate in the Lees ward he represented - about his intentions.
I took some pleasure in running the campaign which saw him knocked off the council a couple of years later. He has never been re-elected, although he holds various public positions at the behest of the Labour Party. In my opinion he is a man with a tribal hatred of politicians who are not of his party. He embraces negative campaigning of a kind that - as has now been demonstrated - knows no limits.
Phil Woolas has been found guilty of lying about his opponent in order to win the election, but I believe that Fitzpatrick played the key role in leading him astray. A good agent would have made sure that their candidate did not behave in this way.
Fitzpatrick's lack of judgement, and his willingness to play the race card, dug Phil Woolas's grave. The MP may have jumped into it of his own volition, but when Fitzpatrick told the Court that the racially inflamatory leaflets at the centre of the case had only been delivered to "the white areas", he threw the earth that buried him.
Fitzpatrick has since declared himself to be "unrepentent."