Labour has played down criticism of a blue election leaflet it was responsible for which targeted Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner and his wife Andrea.

The leaflet, distributed by Labour – whose colours are famously red – was headed ‘an important message for Conservative supporters in Longbeck ward’, where the couple are both standing for the Tories with a view to winning seats on Redcar and Cleveland Council next month.

It suggested the candidates selected by the party fell short of the standards set by the late Conservative councillor Norah Cooney, whose death led to a by-election in the ward which was won by Andrea Turner, and also attacked Mr Turner for standing while the current PCC.

The leaflet quoted Lee Holmes, a former chairman of the South Tees Conservative Association, who quit the Conservative Party. He said that, while he agreed to comments of his that were in the public domain being used, he had played no role in publishing the leaflet or delivering it.

The leaflet added: “We urge you to consider carefully how you use your vote in this election.”

Andrea Turner said that while the leaflet “looked and felt like a Conservative leaflet” as it was mainly blue, the small print showed showed it had been printed and distributed on behalf of Labour, whose candidate Luke Myer is standing in the ward.

She said it was an attempt to reduce the number of votes the couple may receive, to deliberately mislead voters and also “underhand and toxic at best, but at its worst deceitful and manipulative”.

Mr Myer did not comment when approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS). However, a regional spokesman for the Labour Party responded to the leaflet criticism, saying Mr Turner “should be less concerned with the colour of opposition leaflets and more concerned with tackling crime in Cleveland”.

He added: “The people of Longbeck deserve a councillor who will work hard for them every single day.”

Mr Turner previously said becoming a councillor would “dovetail almost seamlessly” with his PCC role and working alongside his wife, should both be elected, would mean residents will have the “very best support and representation available to them”. Both he and his wife hit out at the leaflet and the motives behind it on Facebook.

Mr Turner described a “hateful campaign” against the pair and said the leaflet was “beyond the level of normal electioneering”. He told the LDRS that it was “extremely disappointing, but not surprising, that the Labour party has chosen to personally attack election candidates in this way in order to improve the chances of election for their sole candidate in this ward”.

“Sadly, politics locally seems to be dominated by negative campaigning and personal attacks, but Andrea and I will not get dragged into a tit for tat exchange and will continue to focus on why we believe we are the best candidates to represent Longbeck, whilst wishing our opponents well with their chosen campaign styles,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mrs Turner said a leaflet of their own the couple had put their name to being sent to local voters was “entirely positive” and there was “not one negative mention of any other candidate, which is exactly how politics should be”.