Nick Brown, Labour's Chief Whip, made unfounded allegations of electoral fraud against Newcastle City Council's ruling Liberal Democrats earlier this week. He claimed he could not trust the Lib Dem council with ballot boxes and papers to be left overnight so that counting could take place in the day after polling day.
His groundless comments have caused a storm of protest. Now, Lib Dem chief whip Paul Burstow has written to Brown demanding he raise the matter with the police rather than the press.
Paul wrote, "...you are accusing the ruling group on the council of vote rigging because the count is being held on the Friday."
He then went on to write, "I believe that unless you have evidence, this is an unfounded attack on the integrity and independence of the officials responsible for running and overseeing the electoral process. You will know very well that these officials are not affiliated to any party.
"If you have evidence of any conspiracy to rig the election you should be passing it to the police not issuing press releases condemning officials who are in no position to defend themselves. I hope you will take this opportunity to apologise to the officials concerned and withdraw your remarks."
In reply Brown simply reiterated his allegations were about the Lib Dems, not officials.
So everyone, no withdrawal of his claims, no evidence to back them, no specific allegations, just a vile smear from the man who is at the heart of the Labour party. Watch out folks, I think we can see the desperate tactics Labour will use in the coming general election.
Meanwhile, my colleague, Clare Mills, who works in Alan Beith's office, pointed out to me this morning that Friday counts in Berwick are the norm. There have been no problems with fraud, vote rigging or any other misdemeanours.
And here in Gateshead, we have Friday counts for local elections now. The process goes smoothly. Officers behave with the greatest integrity - and so do both the parties on the council, Lib Dems and Labour. Maybe Mr Brown should venture across the Tyne to speak to his Labour colleagues who, on this issue at least, have a saner view of the world.