A LEADING South Tyneside councillor has been slammed as a "Judas," for changing his political colours.
The pre-local election jibe has been directed at Hebburn Labour councillor John McCabe, who has dismissed the comments as "cynical electioneering".
Four years ago, Coun McCabe was elected as an Independent member in the Hebburn South ward, polling more votes than any Labour candidate.
But he later literally 'crossed the floor' in the council chamber at South Shields Town Hall, joining his former political opponents on the ruling Labour benches.
Coun McCabe quickly rose through the Labour ranks, becoming chairman of Hebburn community area forum, and being instrumental in regeneration plans for Hebburn shopping centre and the multi-million pound rebuilding programme at the town's St Joseph's RC Comprehensive School.
But he has now been portrayed as "John 'Judas' McCabe – The man who betrayed Hebburn South", in a newsletter distributed by Independent Hebburn South candidate Stephen Rhodes.
Mr Rhodes, 65, who worked in heavy engineering before he retired, attacks Coun McCabe ahead of the local elections on May 1, writing: "The people of Hebburn South clearly supported him as an Independent.
"He did not do the honourable thing, stand down and face a by-election as a Labour candidate.
"He did not give all those people who supported him as an Independent the opportunity to decide whether they wanted him as a Labour candidate.
"He betrayed their trust and demonstrated that he wanted to be on the council under any political colour, and was not prepared to take the risk of losing his seat."
An annoyed Coun McCabe responded to the claims after being handed a copy of the Independent newsletter minutes before chairing a meeting of Hebburn forum this week.
He said: "I take great exception to some of these comments, which are clearly aimed at discrediting me a few weeks before the local elections. I have always tried to achieve what is best for Hebburn South first, then Hebburn, and then the rest of the borough.
"Hebburn is always at the root of everything I do as a councillor."
Commenting on why he changed his political allegiances, Coun McCabe added: "I realised that a lone wolf can only achieve so much.
"I was always a Labour supporter before being elected as an Independent, but I saw that I could do so much more for my home town as a Labour councillor.
"I have to ask what Mr Rhodes's policies are, apart from attacking Labour councillors?
"And I must point out that Judas was still a disciple of Jesus."
Mr Rhodes also derides Coun McCabe and fellow Hebburn South Labour members Coun Eddie McAtominey and Coun Nancy Maxwell as the "three Musketeers".
Independent candidate Mr Rhodes has expressed major reservations about retail giant Tesco's plans to build a superstore in Hebburn town centre.
The other candidates contesting the Hebburn South ward on May 1 are: John Coe (Conservative); Jo Durkin (BNP); and Susan Troupe (Lib Dem).