AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into "unsubstantiated" claims some Conservative election candidates in Newport told members of the Islamic community not to vote for the Liberal Democrats because they were “a party of gay men”.

But the city's Conservative group has said, while an internal investigation has been launched, there is no evidence the alleged incidents happened.

Chairman of Newport's Liberal Democrats group Oliver Townsend made the accusation in a letter sent to Newport's Conservative group and Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies.

Mr Townsend - who is gay - claimed Conservative candidates had made the comments to a Liberal Democrat party member while canvassing, and said it had left him feeling “ashamed”.

But Cllr William Routley, who represents Langstone, and is a member of the Newport East Conservative Association, said: “It is an unsubstantiated claim. Going to the court of public opinion first is like putting the cart before the horse.”

South Wales Argus: Screenshot of Oliver Townsend's Tweet

Screenshot of Oliver Townsend's Tweet

He added: “At the end of the day, we are a fully inclusive party and people who know us as a party, know us as that.”

In the letter, which was also posted to Twitter, Mr Townsend said: “As a party we believe there is space for many different views. If you are LGBTQ+ or a Muslim, both communities know fear and prejudice across the world.

“Together we are strong, and when hate is whipped up between communities, we are weak.”

Mr Townsend also asked for a “personal face-to-face apology” from the person who is said to have made the homophobic comments.

He added: “Neither of our parties performed well in Newport, and we have nothing to gain politically from this.”

South Wales Argus: Screenshot Screenshot of Oliver Townsend's letter

South Wales Argus: Screenshot Screenshot of Oliver Townsend's letter

Both parties lost ground in last week's Newport City Council election, with the Conservatives losing two seats, and the Liberal Democrats two.

Ray Mogford, deputy chairman of the Newport East Conservative Association, said: “We will conduct an internal enquiry, as would be expected, and we have been in touch with the chairman of the Lib Dems.

“We signed up to the fair election pledge and as far as we know we have acted respectfully during the campaign. We’re currently waiting on more substantial evidence from the Lib Dems and we hope to conclude the investigation as soon as possible.”

Cllr Mogford, who represents Bishton and Langstone on the council, added: “We have a totally inclusive organisation and the evidence for that is there. If there’s a problem, it will be with one or two individuals.”

Cllr Mogford said a statement on the issue will be made after the investigation.

At the end of his letter Mr Townsend said: “This is also about other young aspiring politicians who are waking up today dreaming of a life of public service, who may have worries and fears about putting themselves out there.

“They need to know that they are valued, loved and protected in politics. Not from scrutiny or disagreement, but from underhanded abuse and attacks.”