The former challenger to lead Unite faced accusations of “gross misconduct” including over comments about Ken Livingstone’s disciplinary hearing before being sacked as the union’s West Midlands secretary, Jewish News understands.

Gerard Coyne was suspended days before being narrowly defeated for the leadership by incumbent Len McCluskey earlier this year – and announced today he had been sacked after a disciplinary hearing this month.

He said he originally faced seven charges “amounting to gross misconduct” during the election campaign. “They consisted of such heinous crimes as publicly criticising and challenging Mr McCluskey’s decisions in leaflets, newspapers and social media.

“Three of those charges I managed to knock out before the hearing and three were dismissed at the final hearing. The final one related to to an alleged technical data breach, which it was claimed had damaged Unite-Labour Party relations. This preposterous trumped up charge has been used to indict me – even though the Returning Officer from Electoral Reform Services had already ruled that there was no breach of the rules.”

But a friend of Coyne told Jewish News that one of the charges thrown out during the hearing related to his criticism on Twitter of two Unite members who were part of the three-person panel that suspended the former London mayor over his comments on Hitler and Zionism, but failed to expel him. It is understood to relate to an interview he gave the Jewish News the day after the verdict in which he said he was “ashamed” that Unite representatives had allegedly argued against having a hearing at all.

Tweeting the article, he wrote: “Livingstone’s comments were grotesque. Unite should not be defending the indefensible.”

Coyne – who announced he would appeal – said he was “deeply disappointed but not surprised” at his removal.

He added: “It was always clear to me that the charges were nothing more than a stitch-up. My real ‘crime’ was having the audacity to challenge Mr McCluskey in the General Secretary election that he called unnecessarily.

“It is a public warning to any member of Unite’s staff who is thinking of challenging the way the McCluskey gang run the union: ‘step out of line, and you will be out of a job’. Political dissent is not tolerated inside Unite.”

A Unite spokesperson told Jewish News: “Mr Coyne’s comments to Jewish News were not included in any charges and were not considered by the disciplining officer.”