James Cleverly has apologised for using “unparliamentary language” after calling a Labour MP “shit”, a source close to the Home Secretary said.

Mr Cleverly has been under pressure to say sorry following claims he called Alex Cunningham’s Stockton North constituency a “shithole”.

But a source close to Mr Cleverly said his off-the-cuff remark in the Commons had been directed towards the MP, rather than his constituency.

“James made a comment. He called Alex Cunningham a shit MP. He apologises for unparliamentary language,” the source said.

“As was made clear yesterday, he would never criticise Stockton. He’s campaigned in Stockton and is clear that it is a great place.”

Mr Cleverly had come under pressure to apologise over the alleged Stockton insult, including from a fellow senior Conservative.

Tees Valley’s Tory mayor Lord Ben Houchen, who had called on Mr Cleverly to say sorry, welcomed the apology.

“Whatever was said, the speculation dragged Stockton’s name through the mud, which is unacceptable.

“We’re all human and he’s a good guy who made a mistake,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Rishi Sunak continues to have confidence in the Home Secretary, Number 10 said.

Labour MP Mr Cunningham alleged the comment was made about his constituency during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Mr Cleverly was accused of making the remark after Mr Cunningham had challenged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over the level of child poverty in his North East seat.

On Wednesday, Mr Cunningham said the audio of the comment was “clear and has been checked and checked and checked again”.

The issue was also raised in the Commons on Thursday, with Labour calling for an apology from Mr Cleverly.

Shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell said: “Besmirching another honourable member’s constituency goes against all the courtesies of this place and it is utterly disrespectful to their constituents.”

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt replied: “With regard to the charge she makes against the Home Secretary, he denies it and I believe him.”