LABOUR politicians last night urged the public to get behind Cleveland Police as they accused Conservative rivals of playing on people's anxieties.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald warned: "If those opposing (the force) are spoiling for a fight, then they will get one."

And Redcar & Cleveland councillors said criticism that east Cleveland was chronically under-policed was more down to years of Conservative austerity.

Mr McDonald said: "I support Cleveland Police, our magnificent police officers and all the workforce that do such a wonderful job keeping us and our local communities safe."

He said he had confidence in the 'veracity' of the recent HMIC report which rated Cleveland as 'good' at meeting demand, increased efficiency, partnership working and 'embedding a culture that embraces continuous improvement'.

Policing had improved immensely from 2012, he said, and the current Chief Constable had been 'instrumental for bringing about huge operational and cultural changes in Cleveland Police'.

"It's a good news story," he said.

Mr McDonald also criticised those who opposed the force for playing on anxieties in 'matters now long past'.

"Anyone who thinks that the people of the Cleveland area want their police force run from County Durham or North Yorkshire can think again. What, in fact, does that mean – Durham City, Northallerton, Leeds or Newcastle? In any case, it would not be any place nearby."

He criticised government cuts at a time when crime was rising and urged everyone to get behind the force, instead of 'perpetuating age-old vendettas'.

Cllr Alec Brown, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Labour-run Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, also urged people to get behind the force and said: “I am pleased that local community leaders and some of our MP”s are highlighting the immediate need for Cleveland Police numbers to be restored to previous levels,

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Conservative MP Simon Clarke this week raised 'deep concerns' about police resources being concentrated on urban Teesside, leaving east Cleveland under-policed. It came ahead of a rally in Brotton this Saturday organised by independent councillor Barry Hunt to highlight the issue.