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Poll delayed until ruling on Woolas

An election for the Commons seat stripped from former minister Phil Woolas will not be called until after a legal bid to fight the ruling is heard, Commons Speaker John Bercow has indicated.

Mr Woolas's narrow General Election victory in Oldham East and Saddleworth was on Friday declared void by a specially convened election court - the first of its kind for 99 years.

The politician, who was found to have deliberately lied about his Liberal Democrat rival, was barred from standing for election for three years and suspended from the Labour Party.

Mr Bercow told MPs that a High Court judge had ordered an "expedited hearing" of Mr Woolas's application for a judicial review of the ruling "as he considers it essential that the electorate of Oldham East and Saddleworth should know who is their Member of Parliament as soon as possible".

He added: "My ruling is that this engages the House's sub judice resolution and that therefore the judgment of the Election Court cannot be debated in the House until court proceedings are concluded."

While Mr Bercow's statement did not specifically rule it out, it is understood that Labour does not intend to move a Commons writ for a fresh poll while the legal challenge is ongoing.

Mr Bercow's statement to MPs will be seen as a steer to political parties that he believes calling the election should be stalled pending the legal proceedings.

An initial application for judicial review was rejected by Mr Justice Silber, after he considered it on paper, on the basis that judicial review was not the appropriate legal route.

Mr Woolas's legal team have rejected that analysis however and renewed the application, which is now expected to be the subject of an oral hearing as early as this week.

Addressing MPs, Mr Bercow said he had received the certificate from the Election Court, determining that May's election was "void".

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