LABOUR Party activists have been accused of dirty tricks and threatening rival candidates in the run-up to next Thursday’s local elections, with both West Yorkshire Police and Kirklees Council alerted over possible offences.
Two Independent candidates standing in Batley West and Dewsbury East – Paul Halloran and Aleks Lukic – have been subjected to a mass of personal attacks from Labour supporters on social media.
Alexander Ascough, who has campaigned for Batley & Spen Labour MP Tracy Brabin in the past, repeated claims from a Far Left blog calling Halloran and Lukic extremists akin to Jo Cox’s murderer Thomas Mair.
He also described Paul Halloran as “a threat to vulnerable adults” after the local businessman visited the Take Ten mental health group and raised funds for them.
The blog also mis-attributed quotes to Mr Halloran stating that he opposed a new Muslim girls’ school, when the quote of a “no-go zone” actually related to traffic congestion issues on Carlinghow Hill in Batley, where he lived at the time.
The slurs were shared across several local Facebook groups but most were removed when the two Independent candidates reported them to the police. Mr Ascough refused to delete his own public post.
Another Kirklees Labour activist, Richard O’Sullivan, has also been reported to police after calling for associates to “batter” the independents at the election count on Friday May 3.
Mr O’Sullivan’s threat has been endorsed by the so-called Kirklees Anti-Fascist Assembly, a branch of the militant extremist Antifa movement that is promoted by Mr Ascough and has over 250 followers.
Antifa activists have been involved in numerous violent protests in England, typically wearing masks.
At a public meeting staged by MP Tracy Brabin at Batley Irish National Club before Christmas, Ascough and an associate were asked to leave, after provoking other members of the public.
Batley West candidate Paul Halloran said: “I have found Mr Ascough to be a very hateful individual whose anger towards me has spanned many months, as I have consistently challenged his bullying tactics.
“He recently upset a local mental health group that I helped with fundraising, when he tried to tell them that I was a risk to vulnerable adults.”
Dewsbury East candidate Aleks Lukic, who has previously stood as a candidate for UKIP, added: “This is the dirtiest, most despicable ambush I have seen at a local election and these Labour supporters should face the full force of the law for their lies and threats.”
The online war of words between the two sides showed no signs of abating this week, with claim and counter-claim traded on social media.
In a statement to The Press Mr Ascough said: “As far as I am aware I have committed no offence in sharing a post written by a third party.
“The post in question clearly evidences all of its claims and it is up to individuals to come to their own conclusions.
“Any further material (screenshots) I have shared regarding Mr Halloran have come from his own pages, and are all his own words.
“It is accepted that anybody standing as a candidate will be open to public scrutiny.
“I would strongly suggest that if Mr Lukic and Mr Halloran aren’t prepared to be answerable to the public, then they step down as candidates.”
Mr O’Sullivan did not respond to our request for comment.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “Although I am not familiar with all the named individuals involved in these accusations, I would reiterate my call for a civilised and polite debate where we treat one another with respect and dignity.
“Nobody should be threatened online and those who are should seek help.”
“As this matter has now been referred to the police, I hope that the names that have been given to The Press have been done so with the police’s knowledge and permission to ensure it does not hinder any potential investigation.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Council chief executive Jacqui Gedman, who acts as the district’s chief returning officer for elections, said: “I can confirm, the returning officer is aware and has referred the matter to the police.”
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “West Yorkshire Police has received a report and an assessment is ongoing to establish if any criminal offences have been committed.”