Labour and Tory leaders in Blackpool have been accused of ‘secret plotting’ in a bid to blow UKIP’s by-election campaign in the town off course.
Kim Knight, UKIP’s candidate in the battle for the Tyldesley ward seat, today claimed a leaked email revealed ‘a stitch-up’ between Labour council leader Coun Simon Blackburn and Conservative leader Coun Tony Williams.
But the two leaders said they had been in contact in order to hit back at ‘lies’ in UKIP’s election literature.
The row erupted after UKIP distributed a leaflet saying Labour had been in power in Blackpool for 21 years during a period of decline, and saying all current councillors had campaigned to remain in Europe.
In response, Coun Blackburn emailed Coun Williams suggesting a joint rebuttal.
He said if the Conservatives were planning a last-minute leaflet, both parties should use the same headline such as ‘UKIP telling lies’.
Mrs Knight said: “Finally the electorate can see why there is never any change in Blackpool.
“It’s because the councillors of the establishment parties band together to stop anyone that would make them work harder and that has fresh ideas, getting elected.
“Everything in my leaflet is true. Of the last 25 years, Labour has been in charge for 21, and no councillors campaigned to get us out of the EU, yet here we see the Labour leader secretly emailing the Tories so they can gang up on UKIP and continue to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.”
The by-election was called after the death in July of Labour councillor and former Mayor Eddie Collett and will be held on September 29.
Mrs Knight added: “On behalf of the electorate, I demand to know to what extent these secret communications and plotting goes on.
“Labour have done nothing in this area for years, and it is now clear why they are never properly challenged.
“The Tories call themselves the ‘opposition’, but in truth, it’s all just a stitch-up to protect themselves, and keep the public in the dark.”
But Coun Blackburn said UKIP had put false information in its leaflets.
Labour lost control of the council to the Tories in 2007 before regaining power in 2011.
And while Coun Blackburn supported remaining in Europe, Coun Williams spoke out to leave the EU.
Coun Blackburn said: “UKIP has been caught telling lies.”
And Coun Williams said: “The local Conservative position was to vote Brexit and many councillors including myself campaigned.
“The Gazette also ran a spread featuring the Labour leader and myself arguing.
“Ms Knight’s statements in regard to ‘every Blackpool councillor campaigned to remain’ are completely untrue.
“UKIP has been caught lying to the electorate.”