Conservative councillors in Sunderland have taken the first steps towards taking libel action against two Labour candidates accused of spreading false information about them in electoral leaflets.
Ehthesham Haque, in Barnes Ward, and Martin Old in the St Chad’s Ward, have both made untrue and unfounded claims in their campaign literature about where their Conservative opponents reside.
Both Labour candidates circulated leaflets carrying the false claims within three days of one another on March 23rd.
Mr Haque has falsely suggested that Cllr Antony Mullen does not live in Sunderland, but in Bolton, whilst Mr Old has claimed that Cllr William Blackett has spent most of his tenure as a councillor (2018-present) living in Leeds.
Cllrs Mullen and Blackett both live in Sunderland and neither councillor has ever lived in Bolton or Leeds.
Cllr Mullen lives within the Barnes Ward, also working from his home office, whilst Cllr Blackett, a trainee teacher, lives in the city.
Speaking on behalf of the two councillors, Cllr Antony Mullen said:
“The Labour Party is desperate to cling to power.
“Its candidates are trying to win votes by making false claims about where local Conservative councillors live.
“I have never lived or worked in Bolton, as Labour has claimed. I have lived exclusively at my current address in the Barnes Ward for many years. I have no intention of moving.
“As a result of this false claim, I have instructed a solicitor to pursue Mr Haque who, as it happens, lives in Millfield, for defamation.
“Likewise, Cllr William Blackett has never lived in Leeds.
“The attack on William is perplexing, as Labour does not appear to have realised he is not seeking re-election. His successor as our candidate, Simon Ayre, lives in Herrington.
“Both these leaflets have gone out within a few days of one another, which gives the appearance of a co-ordinated attempt by the Labour Party to win votes through deception.
“There is clearly an urgent need for Labour to correct these false claims if this is a case of its inexperienced candidates going rogue.
“These smears are designed to damage our reputations and to cause voters to distrust us by suggesting we do not live at the residential addresses we have declared to the Council.”