THE fracas at last night’s election count was sparked by disparaging comments about a female Liberal Democrat party member, it has been claimed.
Ex-council leader Brian Spencer was led away by police from the town hall foyer following an altercation with Labour candidate Mark Johnston and is now the subject of a police assault probe.
Mr Spencer was not arrested but did not return to the election count to see his party suffer one of its worst defeats in living memory.
He was unavailable for comment today but his former colleague and ex- deputy council leader Suzanne Knight, who also lost her seat in last night’s election, believes Mr Spencer reacted to comments made about her.
She told the Reporter: “I didn’t see what happened in the foyer but I’m told that comments were made about me.
“Labour party members had been making comments to me all night, trying to wind me up but Brian is more volatile than I am.
“Apparently someone said something to Brian along the line of defeating me was the sweetest victory of the night for them.
“He turned round and replied that I was a good councillor who’d worked hard for for Newton and that I didn’t deserve to lose.
“That sparked a reaction and they started goading him from there. It was very unpleasant.”
Mrs Knight, who had been a councillor for Newton for 21 years and was due to serve as mayor later this year, said the manner of her defeat was a sour way to end her long and distinguished career in local politics.
“We have always disagreed on policy but I used to have respect for the local Labour group - but no more,” she said.
“Over the lost couple of years I have completely lost respect for them.
“All night at the count there were people coming up to me, goading me, saying I was going to lose. It’s awful and it’s certainly not part what I’m in local politics for.”
Police confirmed earlier today they were investigating Mr Spencer over an alleged assault at the town hall count.
No one from the local Labour party was available for comment.