A NORTH-EAST MP has clashed with one of the candidates hoping to defeat her at the General Election in May.

Peter Cuthbertson, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Darlington, challenged his Labour counterpart, the town's sitting MP, over her party's policies for reducing the number of criminals in prison.

In an article on the website ConservativeHome, Mr Cuthbertson wrote: "Public safety is at real risk. If [shadow justice secretary] Sadiq Khan and Jenny Chapman get their way, the law-abiding will suffer more at the hands of criminals who are rightly currently in prison."

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In comments described as "idiotic" by Mrs Chapman, Mr Cuthbertson added: "Jenny Chapman constantly complains of prison overcrowding.

"Prison overcrowding is a long-standing excuse for sending fewer criminals to prison.

Indeed, the Prison Reform Trust claims that the prison system as a whole has been overcrowded in every year since 1994.

"Even if one takes this hype seriously, there are really only two answers: more prisons or more criminals on our streets. We know that Labour don’t want more prison places."

Mrs Chapman said: "To say that the Labour Party is against locking people up, who have committed crimes, is nonsense.

"Those are idiotic comments to make, considering the Tories have closed 15 prisons."