MP Andy McDonald has again called on Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner to resign and claimed he should “put his big boy pants on” after the PCC’s complaint into election material triggered a police investigation.
Middlesbrough MP Mr McDonald, an arch critic of Mr Turner, who previously revealed a conviction the latter received in the 1990s as a result of handling stolen goods while working at a supermarket, claimed “there is no-one who thinks that any other citizen or candidate would have secured this level of attention”.
Conservative Mr Turner reported a Labour local election leaflet he said contained no clearly visible imprint to Redcar and Cleveland Council’s monitoring officer on suspicion it had broken election rules, who then referred the matter to the police.
Sky News said that this resulted in Cleveland Police officers visiting the homes of local Labour activists to quiz them about the material.
The force subsequently took no action over the matter and also over a separate complaint filed by Mr Turner via the non-emergency 101 number in which he claimed he had been harassed and attacked online by a “bitter and disgruntled member of the public”.
Mr Turner said in a statement he acted to address the “bile and abuse” aimed at he and his wife simply for standing as candidates in the recent local elections, and that at no point did he did ask or attempt to direct Cleveland Police to take action, either as a member of the public or as PCC.
Mr Turner said he assumed a minor offence may have been committed, while his wife, Andrea Turner, also insisted his actions were appropriate, stating: “My husband was a candidate in this race and he had every right the same as any other member of the public to report offences to the police.”
Sky News quoted Nazir Afzal, a former prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service as saying Mr Turner appeared to have received special treatment by police.
Mr McDonald said he was “dismayed” at the police action, which said he involved the “interrogation” of a young teenager, and pointed out that the leaflet was compliant with election rules and completely legal.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service previously reported how a leaflet issued to Conservative voters in Longbeck ward, where Mr Turner and his wife failed to gain election, suggested the couple fell short of the standards required of local councillors and urged them to use their vote carefully.
The leaflet was printed in Conservative colours with Labour being outed later as the instigator behind it.
Mr McDonald suggested that officers had devoted “precious time and resources to such a matter because of the person complaining”.
He also referenced a code of conduct for police and crime commissioners which states they should not use police resources for police benefit, nor improperly for political purposes.
Labour’s Mr McDonald added: “Steve Turner needs to put his big boy pants on, and finally recognise that he has overreached himself again and that he is not fit for office and resign immediately.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Jones, who lost out to Mr Turner in 2021 in the poll to become PCC, questioned whether his actions had been a conflict of interest.
Cllr Jones also contrasted the force’s response to “menial accusations” with “hard working council tax paying residents who find themselves victims of crime [who] would struggle to get an officer to attend to them”.
He also called on Mr Turner to resign, adding: “Standing as a candidate in the local elections when the force he oversees is failing miserably was an immense error of judgement on his part in my opinion.”
Cleveland Police said the force “received a complaint from local election candidates in Redcar and Cleveland regarding information relating to them, in a leaflet distributed to homes in Redcar”.
It added: “Routine enquiries were made to establish who had created and distributed the leaflet, and following a review of the circumstances it was concluded that no offence had been committed.”
Mr Turner told Sky News he had no idea any individuals had been visited by police and it was protocol for potential breaches of election rules to be referred onto the force.
He said the imprint on the leaflet in question, which said it was promoted by Labour, was illegible and “clearly not meant to be identified”.
Anneliese Dodds, who is the chairwoman of the Labour Party, said the matters concerning Mr Turner and the actions which were taken “must be investigated fully”.
A spokesman for the Labour Party previously brushed off Mr Turner’s criticism of election materials in Longbeck and said he “should be less concerned with the colour of opposition leaflets and more concerned with tackling crime in Cleveland”.