A LIBERAL Democrat campaigner has been slammed for delivering political leaflets in the wake of the sudden death of his local election opponent who retained his seat as Cradley and Wollescote councillor just days before tragedy struck.

Labour councillor Richard Body won the local election three weeks ago by just 21 votes – after a closely-fought battle with Lib Dem candidate Ryan Priest who polled 1,040 votes to Cllr Body’s 1,061.

Mr Priest had previously indicated a poll carried out before the election suggested he was on course to win the seat which Cllr Body had held for two decades, but he narrowly missed out on a victory.

Stourbridge News: Richard Body, Cllr Tim Crumpton and Cllr Qadar Zada during this year's campaign trail.Richard Body, Cllr Tim Crumpton and Cllr Qadar Zada during this year's campaign trail. (Image: Dudley Labour.)

Taking to Facebook on May 5 after his hard-fought win, Cllr Body posted a ‘thank you’ note to all those who supported him and rejected “personal politics”.

But tragically he died unexpectedly just a few days later on May 9 after suffering a medical emergency at home.

His sudden passing has left friends and family devastated and the loss means a by-election is now expected in the coming months.

The news means the Lib Dems will likely see themselves as frontrunners to pick up the vacant seat – having lost out on May 4 by a whisker to Cllr Body, who was proud to represent the ward he lived in and was considered a stalwart on the local political scene.

Lib Dem campaigner Ryan Priest has since made a series of post-election promises in a leaflet delivered to residents this week - thanking them for their support in the election and paying tribute to his late opponent Cllr Body.

Stourbridge News: The post election leaflet sent out by Lib Dem candidate Ryan PriestThe post election leaflet sent out by Lib Dem candidate Ryan Priest (Image: Ryan Priest)

The move, however, has been described as insensitive by ward colleague Councillor Tim Crumpton, who had known and worked alongside Cllr Body for 24 years – especially as it was posted through the letter boxes of family members of the late councillor.

Cllr Crumpton added: “It’s despicable. Why would anybody want to upset the people that love him?”

He said the best way people could pay tribute to Cllr Body, who was chairman of the Friends of Homer Hill Park in Cradley, would be by supporting a fundraiser that he’d launched just days before he died - to raise funds for a children’s pump track in the park.

Anyone wishing to donate can do so on the JustGiving.Com website (search pump track Homer Hill Park).

Ryan Priest said he was “really saddened to hear the news of Richard passing” and he told the News: “He was an opponent I always had a great deal of respect for.”

Stourbridge News: Lib Dem campaigner Ryan PriestLib Dem campaigner Ryan Priest (Image: Ryan Priest)

Of the leaflet, he said: “The Lib Dem team in Cradley and Wollescote put out multiple community newsletters through the year, and after each election I have stood have thanked our voters and let people know the result. Residents here understand and appreciate that we keep in touch all year round.”

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council and Dudley Conservative Group, said: “I cannot speak for other political parties, but the Conservative Party will not put anything out until after the by-election has been called.

“If everyone connected with local politics here in Dudley remains respectful that will not be called until an appropriate time after the funeral of the late Richard Body.”