Labour has been accused of trying to “trick” voters into backing a disgraced Newcastle election candidate suspended over Islamophobia allegations.
Joyce McCarty was suspended by her party at the end of March after alleging a “Muslim plot” was behind the ousting of city council leader Nick Forbes.
Labour officials said in early April that Coun McCarty, who was the local authority’s deputy leader until last year, was no longer being endorsed in the Wingrove ward where she is seeking re-election on May 5, though she remains on the ballot for Labour because her nomination forms were lodged just a few days before the suspension.
However, it has now emerged that a prominent Labour campaign website continued to urge voters to support her.
The iwillvote.org.uk site invites people to enter their postcode then informs them who their local Labour candidate is and where their nearest polling station is, telling supporters to “find out what elections are happening near you so you can help Labour win”.
When entering postcodes within the Wingrove ward, which is in Newcastle’s West End, Coun McCarty’s name appeared on a mocked-up ballot paper with a cross next to it.
An advert for the site, paid for by the Labour Party, also appears at the top of Google searches for polling stations in Newcastle or Wingrove.
Coun McCarty’s name was removed from the site on the morning of Friday, April 29, after the matter was raised with the party by the Local Democracy Reporting Service and was replaced by a message telling people to “Use all your votes for Labour Party”.
David Stewart, who is standing in Wingrove for the Northern Independence Party, accused Labour of “trying to trick voters into electing the candidate they suspended”.
Mish Rahman, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, was furious to discover Coun McCarty’s candidacy was still being promoted weeks after her suspension.
He said: “I was given assurances by senior party officials that this person is no longer a Labour candidate while they are being investigated for Islamophobia.
“It appears I was not told the truth. There is something seriously wrong in the party when it comes to how racism against Muslims is treated.”
A Labour spokesman said that the party is not endorsing Coun McCarty, who remains suspended pending an investigation, and put her appearance on the I Will Vote site down to a technological quirk that has now been corrected.
She will still appear as a Labour candidate on ballot papers next Thursday as her nomination forms were submitted on March 28, before her suspension on March 31.
Coun McCarty remains the local authority’s cabinet member for inclusive economy, in which she holds responsibility for issues including support for refugees and asylum seekers.
In a text message seen by the LDRS, the former teacher said she had heard there was a “specific Muslim plot” to oust her long-time ally Coun Forbes, who was deselected in his Arthur’s Hill ward in February, in order to get more black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates.
She has been a councillor since 1994, was Labour’s deputy leader in the city from 2007 to 2021, and deputy leader of the council from 2011 to 2021.
Coun McCarty had also been seen canvassing in the Wingrove ward with fellow Labour councillors after her suspension.
Newcastle Labour tweeted an image, since deleted, of her on the campaign trail on April 3 with the caption “Sunday afternoon on the #labourdoorstep in Wingrove ward, lots of support for local councillor @joycemccarty #vote4joyce #reelectJoyce #VoteLabour”.
Coun McCarty declined to comment.