Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 17:16 UK

Activists 'feared MP visit anger'

Andrew Lansley in Romsey
Mr Lansley said no-one told him they were worried about his presence

Tory activists feared a visit from a shadow cabinet member would have a "negative effect" on their election campaigning, leaked e-mails suggest.

One volunteer in Romsey said he hoped Andrew Lansley's arrival would be "incognito" after stories about his expenses in the Daily Telegraph.

The shadow health secretary said he had not been aware of any complaints.

MPs from all the major parties have reported being abused by voters in the wake of the expenses scandal.

It is thought to be hampering their campaigning efforts in the run-up to next month's local and European elections, at a time when national figures such as Mr Lansley traditionally take to the streets with local activists in a bid to drum up support.

'Ammunition against us'

Mr Lansley denies the Daily Telegraph's accusations he "flipped" homes but has agreed to repay £2,600 expenses.

But e-mails seen by the BBC suggest party activists in Romsey were concerned about the reaction of voters.

One volunteer said: "I would not feel comfortable introducing him on the doorstep".

Members of Romsey and Southampton North Conservatives circulated the e-mails between 15 and 17 May - less than a week after the Daily Telegraph published its allegations about Mr Lansley.

To have him in Romsey could be seen as condoning his behaviour
Conservative activist

In the messages, party workers share their concerns about the scheduled arrival of on 20 May of Mr Lansley in Romsey - a highly-marginal Lib Dem seat of the sort the Conservatives will need to win if they are to form a government.

One activist writes that normally she would be "delighted" to have a well-known Conservative campaigning in the area.

"However, in the present circumstances I wonder if the appearance of Andrew Lansley might not have a negative impact on our County Council campaign," she adds.

"His name and face have been splashed all over the media during the last week and to have him in Romsey could be seen as condoning his behaviour and that of other members of the party.

"While I realise he is by no means the worst offender and many people may not realise who he is, some will and I don't think I would feel comfortable introducing him on the door step or welcoming him into the town."

'Incognito'

She also warns that Mr Lansley's presence is tantamount to "giving the Liberals ammunition against us".

Another writes: "I am afraid I agree."

A third activist concurs, adding: "Lansley will come but NO canvassing... 11:45 arrival Town Centre BUT let's hope incognito!!".

Mr Lansley was whisked into a meeting room at the local Conservative club and then made a low-key visit to a local care home.

Confronted by BBC's South's political editor Peter Henley, Mr Lansley insisted he knew nothing of the unease his presence had generated.

"Nobody said that to me at all," he said.

"We're going to be out and we're going to be meeting voters."

Our correspondent said that if party activists were so angry, it raised questions about how less loyal voters would cast their ballots.



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