Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 16:44 UK

Tory Ian Liddell-Grainger criticised for debate absence

Ian Liddell-Grainger
Ian Liddell-Grainger is campaigning for re-election to Bridgwater and West Somerset

The Conservative candidate for Bridgwater has been criticised for not taking part in public debates during the election campaign.

A Facebook group has been set up called Where's Ian Liddell-Grainger?

He has declined three invitations to hustings and is the only candidate in Somerset to refuse to take part in the BBC's election coverage.

He said he was canvassing during the day and doing casework at night so did not have the time.

Mr Liddel-Grainger, who is defending the seat, said: "You can't say (later on) you've got a better offer, so it's better just to say from the start you just can't do them."

Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke said: "I'm not going to start interfering in Bridgwater, but Ian is a colleague I value and so if he's having a different campaign in Bridgwater then good luck to him.

"I'm sure Ian is campaigning as effectively as ever."

'Democratic process'

Tom Douglas, who set up the Facebook group, said he was not affiliated to a political party.

"We've got an MP here that doesn't want to engage with the public, so if he was to be re-elected what kind of platform is he standing on?

"If I was David Cameron I've be very concerned that one of my potential MPs is making no effort to engage in the democratic process."

Lib Dem candidate Theo Butt-Philip said it showed a "profound lack of respect for democracy".

"When people organise events like this, they put a lot of effort in and they're really trying to engage with democracy and I think it's very important for candidates to try and make that work.

"People have the right to hear what candidates have to say and to ask them questions."

'Useful debate'

Kathy Pearce standing for Labour said she had attended two hustings and had emailed answers to questions put to her from another hustings.

She said: "I haven't seen him at all during the campaign. He's either treating the voters with contempt or is nervous about facing the voters."

Charlie Graham from the Green Party said he had attended three hustings and that it was useful for candidates to debate their policies rather than just list them, while UKIP's Peter Hollings, who has attended four, said Mr Liddell-Granger was treating voters with contempt.

Independent candidate Bob Cudlipp said he had attended two hustings and that he found it important for the candidates to challenge each other as "certain people make untrue statements".

BNP candidate Donna Treanor has attended one hustings.

The candidates for Bridgwater and West Somerset are: Theo Butt-Philip, Liberal Democrats; Bob Cudlipp, Independent, Charles Graham, Green; Peter Hollings, UKIP; Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative; Kathy Pearce, Labour; Donna Treanor, BNP.



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