A candidate in next month’s local elections has been suspended by his party after it was unveiled he had posted “vile” messages on social media.
Anthony Mullen also published election material which suggests a rival candidate blamed the British Government for last year’s Manchester terror attack.
Mr Mullen, who was to stand for the Conservative Party in the Barnes ward next week, has been criticised by the Liberal Democrats and Labour for posting what they argue are offensive tweets.
One tweet from Mr Mullen argues that “the BTEC is a necessity in our culture to separate the stupid from the intelligent,” whilst another sarcastically wishes those who struggle with GCSE English “good luck” as “you’ll ******* need it.”
He also made multiple comments about the personal appearance of women, with one referring to a “fat goth girl” as a “mutant”, while another said that Labour MP Dianne Abbott looked like ‘a “filthy, bulbous pig”.
Mr Mullen has also been criticised for his election material in which he suggests that rival candidate, Labour’s Zaf Iqbal, ‘liked’ a post on Facebook supporting the theory that the British Government was responsible for the Manchester Terror Attack in May last year in which more than 20 people died.
Mr Iqbal said today he vehemently denies the accusations, calling Mr Mullen’s behaviour “disgraceful”.
Mr Mullen, who is a teaching assistant in English Studies at Durham University, has defended himself against the accusations, but has since been suspended by Sunderland’s Conservatives.
Graham Hall, chairman of Sunderland Conservatives, said: “The Conservative Party will investigate these allegations and the candidate is suspended in the meantime.”
And a Conservative spokesman said: “Mr Mullen has been suspended from the party pending an investigation.”
Tim Ellis, who is standing for the Lib Dems in the Barnes ward, said: “These tweets are, to put it bluntly, vile and abysmal.
“They manage to be strikingly offensive towards a number of different groups: the people of Sunderland, women, ethnic minorities and those who struggle in school.”
Mr Iqbal said: “This is disgraceful behaviour from a potential councillor and I have, and continue to, deny any suggestion that I liked a Facebook post which would suggest anything other than the terror attacks were carried out by terrorists.
“I am a Muslim and I have made no secret of the fact that I believed terrorists such as those who carried out the Manchester attack have no religion in my eyes.
“As far as the other stuff is concerned, I have lived in Sunderland all of my life. I am every bit a part of the city of Sunderland and I want to help the people in Barnes ward. That’s why I am doing it.
Related: Sunderland Lib Dem candidate suspended as party investigates Facebook posts
Speaking about the reaction to his posts on social media, Mr Mullen said: “The post-apocalyptic comment was to do with some people thinking that day would be the end of the world, so it was a bit sarcastic.
“But I’m annoyed and unhappy with the way the city centre of Sunderland looks.
“That particular tweet, for all it was sarcastic at the time, I defend that because I still share that view.”
He then defended the content of his election materials and the accusations he has aimed at Mr Iqbal, saying: “My party has signed off all of my election material.
“As far as the use of ‘From Here, For Here’ in my campaign, I was using that before Zaf Iqbal was selected by Labour to contest the ward.
“This is a last-minute attempt by the Lib Dems and it’s not going to work. I’ve put a lot of work into my campaign and this is their response to that.”
Also standing for election in Barnes is Green Party candidate Caroline Robinson.