As the election looms ever closer another political row has broken out – with the Middlesbrough Labour Party now reported to both the police and the Electoral Commission.
Three Labour councillor candidates – including the leader of Middlesbrough Labour Party Charlie Rooney – have been reported for the alleged publishing of a false statement about Independent mayoral candidate Andy Preston.
Mr Preston has been reported to the police and Electoral Commission regarding putting his parents’ Middlesbrough address on his nomination form.
The latest complaints regard Labour councillor candidates for Longlands and Beechwood Charlie Rooney, Jacinta Skipp and Theresa Higgins and a political leaflet that has been circulated across the Saltersgill area of Middlesbrough.
In it, they state that Mr Preston owns a piece of land on Saltersgill Avenue – the former Gospel Hall site – that they describe as “disgraceful”, suggesting that this shows he treats communities with “utter disdain” and claim that Labour candidate Dave Budd is the best man to be the town’s mayor.
Mr Preston said he has not owned the land since last year.
Cllr Rooney said they have issued a retraction leaflet clarifying Mr Preston no longer owns the land but did so at the time of the complaints to Middlesbrough Council.
The police complaint refers to Electoral Commission guidance stating that “It is an illegal practice to make or publish a false statement of fact about the personal character or conduct of a candidate in order to affect the return of a candidate at an election.”
Under the Representation of the People Act 1983, there are criminal penalties in place for those convicted of making or publishing false statements about election candidates.
Mr Preston said:
“This is getting ridiculous. The smear campaign against me has gone beyond stupid now and I’m getting really angry.
“This is just the latest grubby little instalment of the ongoing campaign to undermine me.
“My genuine advice to all the other candidates is to take a deep breath, come up with some decent ideas for the town and start talking to voters. Basically, they should stop slagging me off and focus on their own campaigns.”
Regarding the police complaint, Mr Preston added:
“A quick internet search would have revealed that I am not the owner of the land, nor have I been for some time.
“The statement that I own the land was not only false but deliberately designed to cost me votes and impact the outcome of the mayoral election – perhaps it already has.
“At a time when I have faced ridiculous and puerile allegations about minor paperwork anomalies, it’s important that this rather more serious matter should be looked into by the police.”
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said:
“We received an allegation of electoral malpractice. Any information provided to us will be assessed to see what, if any, offence has been committed.”
A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said it was a criminal matter and would have advised the complainant to report it to the police.
A Labour Party spokesperson said:
“Mr Preston has complained about comments made concerning the state of land on Saltersgill Avenue.
“We have put out a leaflet in the area affected by these repeated blights, providing residents with clear and accurate information.
“We all want a better environment and that means everyone taking responsibility for it. This means businesses, the council and individuals taking responsibility for the properties and land they own and carrying out proper maintenance and not letting the area be spoiled for everyone else.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 27 Apr 2015
Police were on standby at a Labour Party candidate selection meeting – to deter any potential trouble-makers from misbehaving.
Officers attended a Middlesbrough Labour Party selection process meeting for Middlesbrough’s Beechwood ward at The Sutton Centre, in Collin Avenue, last night.
However, there was no disruption – prompting questions to be asked as to why police were asked to attend.
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman today said that the Labour Party would not be invoiced for the officers’ time.
Councillor Len Junier, who represents North Ormesby and Brambles Farm ward and who resigned from the Labour Party last month, was not at the meeting.
But he said: “It has been assumed that there was going to be a problem at the selection process last night.
“It seems a waste of valuable resources.
“I think it is a disgrace that the Labour group in Middlesbrough can do this.”
Cllr Junier, who was one of five councillors recently deselected by the party and who will stand as an independent, added: “From what I heard there were no issues at the meeting – it was over and done with in less than 30 minutes.
“It was not a controversial meeting.”
As reported last month, police were called to attend a Middlesbrough Council meeting which had descended into chaos as a result of two members of the public began filming inside the town hall.
There were also said to have been problems at an earlier annual general meeting for the Clairville ward.
A Middlesbrough Labour Party spokesman confirmed the police had been asked in advance to attend last night’s meeting.
“The police were there for reassurance because at an earlier meeting (the AGM) there had been damage to the property and intimidation to party members by people not eligible to be at the meeting,” he said.
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman had earlier confirmed: “Two police officers attended the meeting yesterday evening.
“They were there to deter any possible disruption to proceedings and did not participate in any political activity or debate.
“The meeting passed off smoothly and without incident.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 07 June 2014