A political furore has erupted after Home Secretary James Cleverly was accused of calling a North East town a ‘s**thole’ in response to a question about child poverty.

He denies making the derogatory remark about Stockton after Labour MP Alex Cunningham spoke at Prime Minister’s Questions.

But Mr Cunningham has been joined by fellow Labour candidates for his Teesside constituency in demanding an apology from the Braintree MP.

The comment was heard in the chamber after Mr Cunningham asked the Prime Minister why 34 per cent of children in Stockton North are living in poverty.

Making a point of order in the Commons later on Wednesday, Mr Cunningham, who represents Stockton North, said: “Before the Prime Minister answered, the Home Secretary chose to add in his pennyworth.

“Yes, I have contacted his office advising him I planned to name him, but sadly he has chosen not to be in the chamber.

“He was seen and heard to say ‘because it’s a s**thole’.

“I know he is denying being the culprit, but the audio is clear and has been checked, and checked, and checked again.

“There is no doubt that these comments shame the Home Secretary, this rotten Government, and the Tory Party.

“He is clearly unfit for his high office.”

The Northern Echo: Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham (Image: Contributor)Mr Cunningham, asked how he could secure an apology from the Home Secretary for “his appalling insult and foul language” about his seat in the North East.

Commons Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing said it was her understanding that Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle “didn’t hear any remark of the kind from the chair at the time when the honourable gentleman was asking his question”.

She said: “I understand that the alleged words were not actually used, though I appreciate what (Mr Cunningham) says.

“But I think we all know that it’s very difficult in the noisy atmosphere of Prime Minister’s Questions to discern exactly what someone says.

“So I can make no judgment here from the chair as to what was or wasn’t said.”

She said she understood Mr Cunningham’s concern, and added: “I would remind all honourable members of the need for good temper and moderation in the language they use in this chamber.”

Mr Cleverly has only been in his post since last week following the shock return of former Prime Minster David Cameron to frontline politics who replaced him as Foreign Secretary.

His predecessor Suella Braverman was sacked by Rishi Sunak over comments she made about the police's handling of a pro-Palestine march.

The Northern Echo: Home Secretary James CleverlyHome Secretary James Cleverly (Image: PA)Referring to the slur about Stockton North, Mr Cleverly’s spokesman said: “He did not say that, and would not.

“He’s disappointed people would accuse him of doing so.”

The anger comes as a major £40 million revamp of Stockton town centre, which has included the demolition of the former Castlegate Shopping Centre and Swallow Hotel, continues.

Construction on the Stockton Waterfront project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

Surplus retail space is being removed so people will be able to walk uninterrupted to the riverside from the High Street.

The aim is to create an urban park with open spaces for the community to enjoy large scale events in an area three times the size of Trafalgar Square.

Joe Dancey, Labour’s candidate for Stockton West, said: "Stockton is the home of the railway and, across the borough from Yarm to Hartburn, our people work hard and our beautiful high streets and parks are amongst the best in Britain.

"I have written to the Conservatives' Chairman Richard Holden MP to demand his party owns up to whichever minister made this disgusting slur against Stockton and says sorry today.  

"I expect Matt Vickers MP to join me in demanding a public apology from this minister - in person - to the people of Stockton for this disgusting language about our great town.  This is shameful.

“We now know what the Conservative government really thinks about Stockton and it sickens me.”

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The Northern Echo has contacted Teesside MPs Matt Vickers, Simon Clarke and Jacob Young as well as Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden for comment but none have responded.

Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley Mayor, who was ennobled by Boris Johnson, declined to comment on the matter.

Chris McDonald, Labour's candidate for Stockton North, said: “This is a disgrace, but it lays bare what the Tories’ view of Teesside is. 

“It also shows just what the Conservatives think of the reality facing families across the country."