TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen's invitation to US President Donald Trump to visit Teesside has met with its first opposition after campaigners started a petition objecting to it.

The petition, on the website change.org, says: "We demand that Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley, withdraws the invitation for the President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump, to visit Teesside.

"We neither want not need such people in the area."

It is not clear who started the petition but one of the first to sign was former Labour and independent Middlesbrough councillor John McPartland, who said: "Trump is a racist, a misogynist... and a bully who will mock a disabled journalist in public. We should not be extending the hand of friendship to such people."

But Mr Houchen said he was extending the invitation to promote the area's business interests and to cement a possible deal with US investors for the former SSI site in Redcar.

He said: “Whether it’s my negotiations with the three Thai banks to secure the former Redcar steelworks site or with Peel to take our local airport back into public ownership, in politics you sometimes need to work with people you don’t necessarily agree with – and the President of a country that is our closest ally is no exception.

“As Mayor, I was elected to work with anyone and everyone to attract inward investment into the Tees Valley.

"American companies like Cummins in Darlington, ConocoPhillips at Seal Sands, Caterpillar in Skinningrove and Huntsman at Wilton have invested hundreds of millions of pounds into our regional economy, and each of them support thousands of livelihoods in our area."

The Northern Echo:

Only a handful of people had signed the petition last night, with 27 signatures out of a target of 100. Other reaction to the invitation has been unexpectedly mild.

Labour MP for Stockton South Paul Williams said: "Teesside businesses need strong international relationships in order to succeed and bring the best jobs to our area.

"I personally don't like Trump. He is a misogynist, a bully who uses his power to defeat rather than protect the most vulnerable and a climate change denier. But I would work with him and the Combined Authority to bring good jobs to the people of Teesside."