Accusations of dirty politics have been made in Northumberland after UKIP had to deny writing an election letter calling for mothers to lose state benefits.
Across south-east Northumberland, senior Labour figures received a letter claiming to be from a Newcastle UKIP candidate calling for an end to welfare for mothers after nine months and a demand that jobseekers never get more than the minimum wage.
Last night the party said it was considering complaining to the Electoral Commission, though it was unclear who had written the letter.
UKIP general secretary Jonathan Arnott said: “This letter is a disgusting hoax. Investigation reveals that the freepost given actually belongs to the Labour Party. If we hadn’t noticed this deception, an innocent woman could have been falsely branded as racist. At first sight it looks like the Labour Party were responsible, and I’m appalled that our opponents could stoop so low.
“The Labour Party should suspend its south-east Northumberland branch and hold a full investigation.
“We are considering all options at present, including reporting the matter to the police or the Electoral Commission.”
The contentious letter says Labour’s main focus has been on “so-called black and ethnic minorities” and adds that under UKIP the “Northern white working class” would be treated “just like the black and ethnic minorities living on welfare”.
The letter adds: “UKIP believe that if you are on welfare any child you give birth to nine months after is not the responsibility of the tax payer.
“If a lady on minimum wage had another child and asked her employer for more money she would be refused. Why should welfare recipients be treated better than workers on the minimum wage?”
The freepost address on the letter has previously been used by the Labour party nationally, though there is no suggestion the letter was produced by the party.
A Labour Party spokesman said the UKIP claim was “absolute rubbish”.
He added: “This old freepost address is freely available on the internet and could be potentially misused by anyone. We have reported this misuse to Royal Mail. To suggest this letter is anything to do with the Labour Party is absurd.”
South-east Northumberland politics have already descended into a bitter row of claims and counter-claims between UKIP and Labour, with the two sides rowing over accusations of election fraud.
The latest row follows a push by UKIP for seats in this May’s local elections. Polls suggest that the party has a good chance of coming second in this May’s European elections, taking one of the three seats in the North East.
If so, it is likely both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would be forced out as a result, meaning Labour could take two seats.
UKIP is also set to field around 100 candidates in the upcoming local elections in the five Tyne and Wear councils.