Labour suspends Norfolk-based Parliamentary candidate

Shaun LowthorpeLabour has suspended a Norfolk-based parliamentary candidate and parish council chairman vying to become an MP in South East Cambridgeshire over allegations that he posted "unacceptable" messages online.Shaun Lowthorpe

Labour has suspended a Norfolk-based parliamentary candidate and parish council chairman vying to become an MP in South East Cambridgeshire over allegations that he posted "unacceptable" messages online.

John Cowan, former vice-chairman of the Norfolk County Labour Party, who is also chairman of Barnham Broom parish council, reportedly left comments on motoring and dating websites in which he admitted illegally paying his cleaner cash-in-hand.

Mr Cowan, who also boasted about his sexual exploits, and said he would not want his children to marry a Muslim, according to a national newspaper, could now be expelled from the Labour Party.

Labour's election team has also launched an investigation in to its selection processes in the Eastern region in the wake of Mr Cowan's suspension.

A Labour Party spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Cowan had been dropped yesterday.

'The allegations that came to light after nominations closed are totally unacceptable and well below what the party expects of our candidates,' she said. 'The general secretary of the Labour Party has suspended the candidate from the Labour Party and we are taking action to ensure he is never again a Labour candidate.

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'The Labour Party's relevant committees will be asked to consider whether he should be expelled from the Labour Party.'

South East Cambridgeshire is a Tory stronghold, which returned James Paice with a majority of nearly 9,000 at the last general election.

Mr Cowan, who had previously hoped to be Labour's candidate in last year's Norwich North by-election before dropping out of the selection contest, was previously expelled from the Liberal Democrats in 2004 in connection with 'inappropriate' online posts.

In 2007 he also hit the headlines while working as a Labour Party agent at a Breckland District Council election count which had to be evacuated after he set off the fire alarms in frustration at technical problems involving the trial of an electronic count which had to be suspended.

Police also had to be called in at the time after he refused to leave the building.

Labour's election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander told a press conference in central London that the party was looking into how a man who had been expelled from the Liberal Democrats came be to selected as a parliamentary candidate.

Mr Alexander said: 'As is usual in these matters, he was interviewed by the regional board of the Labour Party.

'The content and outcome of those interviews are now the subject of what is an ongoing investigation, but as soon as this matter was brought to the party's attention on Friday, suspension was imposed immediately and that investigation is now under way.'

Mr Cowan, who could not be contacted yesterday, is the second Labour candidate to be dropped during the campaign after revelations about their online activities.

Stuart MacLennan, who had been standing for the party in Moray, was fired a fortnight ago when it emerged he had described old people as "coffin dodgers' on social networking site Twitter.

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