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A specially convened court was told today that the former immigration minister Phil Woolas stooped to foment racial and religious divisions as part of a desperate attempt to influence a general election result.

The Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth and his campaign team set out to “galvanise the white Sun vote” against Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins, the hearing was told. It is the first time in almost a century that such a case – which could see the result overturned – has been heard for a general election constituency vote.

Woolas won in May with a wafer-thin majority of just 103 following two recounts. Yesterday two high court judges, Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mr Justice Nigel Teare, presided over the hearing, which is likely to continue all week. Watkins was given leave to challenge the result following a high court hearing in July.

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