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Aberdeenshire Labour candidate ditched by party in pro-Putin row breaks silence to clear his name

Andy Brown spoke to the Press and Journal after we revealed he had been suspended - and he says he’s been "hung out to dry" by party bosses.

Labour suspended candidate Andy Brown. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson.
Labour suspended candidate Andy Brown. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson.

The Aberdeenshire North and Moray East Labour candidate ditched by the party for sharing “pro-Russia” posts on social media has furiously denied the allegations in a desperate fight to clear his name.

Andy Brown spoke to the Press and Journal after we exclusively revealed on Tuesday he had been suspended – and claims he has been “hung out to dry”.

The veteran Labour activist says he’s been stitched up and claims he would never endorse or show support for Vladimir Putin.

One link shared on Mr Brown’s Facebook page was to media outlet Russia Today and questioned whether Russia was behind the 2018 Salisbury poisonings.

In a full and frank interview, he tells us:

  • Labour didn’t phone him to say he had been suspended.
  • He only found out on Wednesday morning by reading the news.
  • He disputes all the claims against him and says he’s the victim of a smear campaign.

“If it appeared on my Facebook page, I don’t know where it came from,” he told the P&J.

“It’s caused me a lot of stress. It’s not true.”

He adds: “There’s no way I would ever share anything pro-Russia.

“I have absolutely no idea where it came from. Why on earth would I be supporting Russia? It’s absolute nonsense.”

Russian comments

The row over Mr Brown’s comments came as we revealed the SNP candidate for Orkney and Shetland had made near identical remarks.

And on Monday, the SNP hopeful in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine came under fire for historic “pro-Putin” comments on social media.

Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Image: AP.

Another post shared on Mr Brown’s Facebook appeared to dismiss Labour’s antisemitism crisis when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

But Mr Brown disputes this too, saying: “I’ve always been more of a Blairite. I was never a fan of Jeremy Corbyn.

“The problem with social media is people can manipulate things. I think somebody’s superimposed it on there.”

The suspended Labour candidate says he received a letter and email from the party on Tuesday night.

‘Hung, drawn and quartered’

But he was unaware support for him had been withdrawn until the next morning, when his ordeal had become national news following our report.

Mr Brown said nobody from Labour HQ phoned him directly before he was binned.

“I’ve been hung out to dry,” he says.

The Labour Party told the Press and Journal multiple attempts were made to reach him by phone.

Yet if Mr Brown is innocent as he claims, why does he think Labour was so quick to act and get rid of him?

He says: “For the Labour Party, it’s like carrying an expensive ming vase across a floor.

“They want to look clean. It looks good at the top level in their eyes.”

Rachel Reeves was ‘pleased’ that Andy Brown had been ditched.

Labour Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves boasted on Wednesday that “swift action” had been taken and was “very pleased” Mr Brown had been suspended.

For the beleaguered Labour candidate, the past 24 hours have been a nightmare.

Mr Brown spent much of Wednesday trying to contact senior party figures such as Ms Reeves and Anas Sarwar to protest his innocence.

He says: “I was absolutely shocked. I didn’t sleep last night. I almost had heart palpitations at one point.

“It goes to show how dangerous things are now. You can be hung, drawn and quartered without being able to speak your mind.”

Mr Brown pulled out of a hustings in Moray village Cullen in Thursday night as he steps back from campaigning.

His name will still be listed on the ballot on July 4 since nominations have closed.

‘I’m not vindictive’

Yet despite being ruthlessly abandoned by the party he first joined in 1997, Mr Brown says he still wants to be a Labour member.

“I just have to accept what has been said and clear my name,” he says. “I’m not a person who’s vindictive in any way.”

Perhaps the biggest irony of all for Mr Brown is that he didn’t even plan to stand at all in this election.

He lives in the West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine constituency – but stepped in to help ensure Labour had a candidate in the neighbouring seat.

“I wish I’d just said no now,” he says. “Hindsight’s a great thing.”

On Tuesday, a Labour spokesperson said: “Andy Brown has been administratively suspended from the Labour Party pending investigation.

“We have taken the decision to withdraw support from a parliamentary candidate during a general election.

“Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer have changed the Labour Party and said that every candidate and MP would operate to the highest standards. This action shows that they meant it.”

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