Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 12:01 UK

MacKay heckled at public meeting


Tory MP Andrew MacKay is heckled mid-interview

Tory MP Andrew MacKay was repeatedly heckled at a meeting he called to talk to constituents about his expenses.

Mr MacKay resigned as an aide to leader David Cameron because he and wife Julie Kirkbride, MP for Bromsgrove, both claimed second home allowances.

The MP for Bracknell, who is to stand for reselection, insisted most of those at Friday's packed meeting backed him.

But that was disputed outside, with one man saying Mr MacKay had been "overwhelmingly opposed".

'Ruined constituency'

The constituent said: "The mood of the meeting was in opposition to what you were saying, and what you were doing was in the wrong. You're misrepresenting the mood of the meeting. Why can you not accept that?"

Mr MacKay replied: "I would just say to you that when somebody like yourself spoke against me about a quarter or less of the audience clapped. When people spoke in favour of me three quarters did."

Those who are against tend to be the most vehement and hence the noisiest in their disapproval
Roger Black, Bracknell Conservatives

That was followed by several shouts of "rubbish".

In the meeting, which was open to all constituents, local man John Piasecki told Mr MacKay: "You did not accept responsibility for your actions."

Retired facilities manager Jean Searle said: "I don't think I can vote Conservative if you're running for office. You've ruined our constituency."

But one woman voiced satisfaction with what he said at the meeting.

"I think that the fact that he came here tonight showed that he is a courageous man. He didn't have to come - it showed that he had integrity, and he's an honourable man," she said.


As he arrived, Mr MacKay said he wanted to apologise and would be asking for the formal backing of the local party.

"This is a meeting for me to say sorry to my constituents, to give them the facts of the case, to talk about the future, but not specifically my future, and also to hear what they have to say," he said.

"I have said that in the light of these developments it is absolutely right that there is a re-selection involving every paid-up member of the Bracknell Conservative Association, and that will be happening in the next month or two."

The chairman of Bracknell Conservatives, Roger Black, told the BBC Mr Mackay came across well in the meeting, despite the presence of "several political opponents".

"Obviously as is always the case, those who are against tend to be the most vehement and hence the noisiest in their disapproval," he said.

They have all lost the confidence of the public
Lord Tebbit
Former Conservative Party chairman

"People who live in Bracknell are very fair minded [and] a number of positive points were also raised, in particular recognising Andrew's unstinting hard work on behalf of his constituents for over 26 years."

More than 350 tickets were requested for the meeting at the Kerith Centre in Bracknell.

The Conservatives said Mr MacKay had voluntarily submitted his expense claims to party officials and these had revealed "an unacceptable situation that would not stand up to reasonable public scrutiny".

Expenses moves

Meanwhile, Totnes Conservative Association said after a meeting it was very disappointed by remarks made by their MP Anthony Steen.

Mr Steen had apologised for an interview on BBC Radio 4's World at One in which he said critics of his expenses claims were simply "jealous" of his country house.

The local party said it was relieved he took the decision not to stand at the next election and that it was beginning the process of selecting a new candidate.

The Daily Telegraph reported he had claimed more than £87,000 over four years for the home.

Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit told BBC Radio 5 Live that MPs should take the blame for the expenses crisis, rather than the institution of parliament.

He said: "They have all lost the confidence of the public. And the reason is the people. It's not the institution, it's not framework they work in."

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