A letter from 35 candidates at next week's Isle of Wight Council elections has been delivered to the Island's Conservative HQ...accusing the party of dirty tricks in its leafleting strategy.

The mix of Greens, Independents, Island Independent Network, Our Island and Lib Dems say the Tories have deliberately, and inaccurately sidelined them, suggesting the election is a straight choice between Conservative and Labour.

But the Tories have hit back, particularly singling out Green Party election literature they say is inaccurate.

The multi-party letter, addressed to Isle of Wight Conservative Party chairman David Pugh, asks three main questions:

1 Why are you deliberately misleading the public by repeating the false claim that in every ward it is only Conservatives and Labour who can win, when in 38/39 wards this does not apply?

2 Why are you falsely claiming county council elections with 39 wards with very different identities and numerous Independent candidates can be equated with an election to the Westminster Parliament?

3 What are you actually afraid of, attempting to hide behind this phony binary focus on local politics?

The letter signs off: "We believe that elections should be fought openly and with integrity.

Isle of Wight County Press: One of the leaflets complained about.One of the leaflets complained about.

"It is most disappointing that the Isle of Wight Conservative Party, under your leadership as their Election Agent, refuses to communicate with the electorate honestly."

The letter also states that many strong Independent candidates win here without the support of a political party and county elections across 39 wards can result in smaller parties being successful and winning many seats.

It takes issue with the Tory claim the Conservatives and Labour have enough candidates to form a majority to run the IW Council.”

The coalition of candidates says this claim is also factually incorrect.

It says many councils across the country are successfully run by a coalition from different parties.

It points out Labour have barely won a handful of seats for County Hall in the past on the Isle of Wight, and certainly have little chance of securing a majority of over 20 seats from a standing start.

The Tory claim that non-Tory councillors in the next administration would be on the fringes is described as presumptive and disingenuous to candidates and to the IW electorate.

Mr Pugh said: "It is a fact that only the Conservatives and Labour have enough to candidates to form a majority to run the IW Council.

"All other parties or groupings have fewer than 20 candidates so it is mathematically impossible for them – on their own – to form a majority administration. We have not said – contrary to what their letter claims – that only these two parties can win individual seats.

Many of these parties have shown – by only standing candidates in certain seats – that some parts of the Island are more important to them than others.

"For instance, the ironically named Our Island has not shown any interest in our three largest towns.

"Most councils across England are run by a majority of one political party. This allows a local authority to have a clear, cohesive direction, rather than the chaos the Island saw between prior to 2017 when a group of disparate independents.

"It is rather hypocritical of these candidates to make such absurd claims.

"One of them (the Green candidate for Osborne) has just put out a leaflet suggesting that the election is between him and the Conservative candidate, even though the Greens didn’t even stand in this area last time.

Isle of Wight County Press: David Pugh said this leaflet showed double standards.David Pugh said this leaflet showed double standards.

"The Lib Dems are clearly the main challengers to the Conservatives in Osborne, having come second in a 2019 by-election which covered this area.

"Then we’ve got the Green candidate for Freshwater North and Yarmouth, who has told voters in Yarmouth and Wellow that he got 43 per cent of their votes in 2017, even though he wasn’t a candidate in that area last time.

"Or the Green candidate for Carisbrooke and Gunville, who claimed in his leaflet that he is standing in the parish elections to represent that area, when he is actually standing in Newport West.

"We’re not going to take lessons from this assorted bunch about messaging in election campaigns."

Our Island's Jonathan Bacon contacted the County Press with the following comment:

"Mr Pugh might actually want to consider taking lessons about messaging in an election campaign as his efforts would be laughable if they were not so misleading.

"To deny a candidate could be a key challenger simply because his party did not stand in that ward in the previous election is farcical. Similarly to contend that the only way to run a council is through the control of a single party is wrong. One only has to look at the last four years to see how wrong that statement is.

"His contentions are also undermined when one notes that the Conservatives, like Labour, are standing a number of paper candidates. Those groups with fewer candidates are more honest as they are standing candidates who are there to actively contest Wards with a view to becoming the councillor for that area, rather than just being there for the sake of appearance, pleasing their party’s head office or just helping feed party publicity.

"His responses simply compound the problems in what Mr Pugh has written in the leaflets for the candidates under his direction."