The mayor of Middlesbrough faces a conduct probe over claims he had pornography on his computer – but he accused the town’s MP of an ‘absurd and sinister’ plot.
A member of Andy Preston’s staff allegedly saw explicit material on his screen in the mayoral office this year.
But Mr Preston claims the complaint was made by Labour MP Andy McDonald and said it was based on ‘no more than rumours and hearsay’.
Mr Preston, Independent, claimed the matter was ‘already considered closed’ by the local council.
Andy Preston – pictured – made headlines in October for urging locals not to follow the Government’s ‘unjust, cruel and illogical’ local lockdown
The war of words was sparked by an anonymous tip-off received by Middlesbrough Council complaining about an incident in February, the Northern Echo reported.
Council chief executive Tony Parkinson yesterday confirmed the complaint had been received and was ‘being assessed’.
Mr Preston, who made headlines in October for urging locals not to follow the Government’s ‘unjust, cruel and illogical’ local lockdown – before later reversing his stance – said he was the victim of a politically-motivated attack.
He said: ‘At a time when Covid has left Middlesbrough and many of its people in crisis, this is an absurd and appalling new low in a long series of attempts to bring me down by those who want to be in power.
‘When the full story comes out, people will be appalled at the sinister activities of certain individuals who will, it seems, stop at nothing for their own political gain.
Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said: ‘These are very serious allegations and a proper investigation should be carried out’
He added: ‘Let’s be clear that this complaint is being made by the town’s MP Andy McDonald – and is based on no more than rumours and hearsay about a matter that had already been considered and closed by the council.’
Mr Preston added: ‘The truth is that he is trying to get me to resign. He will not win.’
Mr McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said: ‘These are very serious allegations and a proper investigation should be carried out.
‘If misconduct is confirmed then I believe the mayor should resign.’
Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Simon Clarke added: ‘Clearly these are serious allegations and it is important that the full facts are established.
‘A thorough investigation will be required to ensure that public confidence in our council can be maintained. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.’
Mr Preston launched his astonishing mutiny in October after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that Middlesbrough, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East.
In a video message Mr Preston said they went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons.
Mr Preston was elected mayor in 2019, having first stood and narrowly lost in 2015.
The businessman was previously a high-profile philanthropist in Teesside before going into politics.
Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, added: ‘Clearly these are serious allegations and it is important that the full facts are established’
The first charity he founded, in 2011, was Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation which raises funds for communities in the area.
The Foundation is supported by a number of local businesses including Middlesbrough Football Club.
A few years later, Mr Preston launched a new charity called CEO Sleepout which holds events across the UK to raise funds to combat homelessness and poverty.
In December 2016, launched a restaurant, The Fork in the Road, in Middlesbrough in an attempt to provide employment opportunities for former prisoners, recovering addicts and the long term unemployed.
He stepped down from his foundation after being elected, having raised three million during his tenure.
Mr Preston was previously a staunch Labour member before standing as an independent in 2015.
He had a run in with the Labour Party in 2019, when he was accused of ‘dog whistle racism’ after making a post on Facebook titled ‘Immigration Can Bring Big Benefits and Big Negatives’.
Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough, labelled Preston’s post ‘irresponsible and dangerous’.
However, the mayor was heavily supported by the public and an online poll suggested that 89% of residents agreed with his post.
In it, he said that he was ‘100% certain that recent and rapid immigration to some parts of central Middlesbrough is causing new problems and a clash of cultures is developing.’
Dismissing his critics in the Labour party, Mr Preston later said: ‘If professional politicians and some snowflakes aren’t happy with me then that’s fine.
‘I’ll keep sticking up for people – regardless of what abuse politicians and their lackeys send me.’