THE Conservatives and UKIP have hit out at Labour for "campaigning" in West Thurrock before the funeral of late councillor Andy Smith.

A by-election will be held in the West Thurrock and South Stifford ward following Mr Smith's sudden death recently.

But Labour's opponents are unhappy that the party has been distributing leaflets before Mr Smith's funeral has been held.

Over the weekend, several Labour activists were out delivering "community news" fliers in the ward, which paid tribute to Mr Smith - who passed away on Tuesday, August 12 - but also appeared to announce a Labour candidate for the ward and attacked UKIP and the Conservatives.

Terry Brooks is quoted on the front of the leaflet as saying: "Andy and I campaigned many times on many campaigns - I learned a lot from him. It's an honour to be chosen to follow in his footsteps."

On the leaflet's reverse, there are quotes from various Labour party members, paying tribute to Mr Smith.

Tim Aker, the UKIP Euro MP for Thurrock and the eastern region and the party's MP candidate for Thurrock next year, said: "We in UKIP made the clear moral choice out of respect to Andy Smith, his family and friends not to campaign in the ward until after his funeral.

"The fact that Labour are already putting out leaflets that promote their new candidate and attack UKIP is in my view, shocking and completely inappropriate.

"We all know that Polly Billington is scared stiff of UKIP’s rise in Thurrock. But this really is a brand of desperate politics that represents the lowest of the low.

"UKIP will not be campaigning in West Thurrock and South Stifford until after Andy Smith’s funeral."

Rob Gledhill, leader of the Conservative group in Thurrock, said: "We are extremely disappointed by Labours decision to deliver political literature before the funeral of their colleague.

"Last year Labour incorrectly accused us, in the press, of canvassing in Stifford Clays before Diana Hale's funeral, but are more than happy to do similar in West Thurrock.

"I had spoken to the Labour leader and we agreed we would not be politically active in the area until after the funeral.

"Labour-run council hasn't even published the seat becoming vacant yet but are happy to name their candidate and attack other parties in this piece of literature.

"There is an unwritten rule that this type of activity does not take place before the funeral and to try to say it is solely a tribute to Andy Smith is a feeble attempt to justify their actions and breaking their word."

On Twitter, Labour councillor for West Thurrock and South Stifford, Oliver Gerrish, said the leaflet was a eulogy to Mr Smith. 

He criticised Phil Anderson, a Conservative, for "attacking" Labour in paying tribute.

Labour leader John Kent has not responded to a request by the Gazette for a response.

*Mr Smith's funeral will be held on Monday, September 8.