A WAR of words has broken out between two candidates vying to win the Harwich and North Essex seat in the General Election.

Labour’s Stephen Rice has accused Lib Dem Michael Beckett of mudslinging and making unsubstantiated claims about him.

He said Mr Beckett said he was a “Momentum enforced candidate” and said Labour was “endorsed by the Communist Party”.

Mr Beckett, however, defended his comments and said: “If you look at Wikipedia, the Mirror, Morning Star, the Mail you will see the British Communist party are endorsing Labour so my statement is already in the public domain.

“It is not a claim, it’s a fact and I can’t see how this could be malicious or defamatory against him.

“I haven’t accused anyone, it’s only a matter of fact. All I have done was repeat what had already been said, Stephen Rice is backed by the Momentum circle.”

However, a spokesman for the Momentum North Essex said: “We can confirm he [Stephen Rice] is not a Momentum candidate, we are not a political party.

“We support him for two reasons which includes we support all Labour candidates and his reputation and community work deserves the support of all decent people.”

Mr Rice also said Mr Beckett blocked him on all social media platforms.

He added: “He blocked me without any interaction or reason so I’m unable to defend myself against these accusations online.”

However, Mr Beckett said he didn’t want to get involved in arguments. “I have a low tolerance for social media contact that is broadcasting rather than genuinely debating,” he said.

“I am focused on my own campaign and how I am the reasonable alternative to the Momentum-flavoured Labour party.”

Mr Rice said he wishes to run a positive, friendly campaign and doesn’t want to be involved in mudslinging and dirty politics.

He added: “I am sure he is well-intentioned but I do wish he was better briefed.

“Recent history shows the Liberal Democrat party cannot be trusted to stick to the promises they make.

“’Tactical voting’ is smoke and mirrors and repeatedly results in a Conservative and Unionist government.”

  • The other candidates standing in Harwich and North Essex are: Sir Bernard Jenkin (Con), Peter Banks (Green), Richard Browning-Smith and Tony Francis (Independent).