Grant Shapps pulls out of JW3 event in wake of Wikipedia row

Mr Shapps was due to speak at the JW3 centre last night

Mr Shapps was due to speak at the JW3 centre last night - Credit: Archant

The chairman of the Conservative Party pulled out of a much-anticipated pre-election Q&A in England’s most marginal constituency as a row continues over accusations he edited the Wikipedia pages of his rivals.

Chris Grayling MP in conversation at JW3 last night. Picture: Polly Hancock

Chris Grayling MP in conversation at JW3 last night. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Grant Shapps was due to appear at the JW3 centre in Finchley Road last night to face north London voters just over a week before the general election.

The event was booked in advance and people had bought tickets on the understanding Mr Shapps would be speaking.

But the Tory big-hitter was nowhere to be seen on the night, with organisers told just 45 minutes before the event he would be replaced by justice secretary Chris Grayling.

His sudden withdrawal came after accusations made in the Guardian newspaper last week that he was behind edits made on his own Wikipedia page and those of his ‘rivals’ in the Conservative Party.

Mr Shapps strongly denies the claims.

Last night, Mr Grayling dismissed a question suggesting Mr Shapps had pulled out of the JW3 event due to the article, saying instead Mr Shapps had to go to a school parents’ evening.

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He said: “It’s a great pleasure to be here and I hope you don’t feel too disappointed to have me as his substitute. I got the message if I could step in, which I was very happy to do so. Grant rang me and said that he’s gone to parents’ evening.

“He was planning to miss parents’ evening but has now had to go. I’ve no idea what the circumstances are but that’s where he’s gone.”

The event was organised by Jewish News and many Conservative Party supporters used the evening to complain about the election campaign being fought by the Tories, saying it was “negative” and “lacked leadership”.

One audience member, from Hendon, said to the applause of others: “We’re ten days to go to a general election, we’re all wondering when the Tory campaign is actually going to start? Why have we not seen large billboards showing the positive things the Tories have done over the last five years? We’re also very concerned about the negativity that we’ve had from the Tory party. You should be positive in going forward about what you’ve achieved, not keep going on about the SNP and Labour.”

Another audience member added, “it’s a pathetic, drab campaign from the Conservative Party,” while a third said: “Why don’t have any leadership anymore [in the Conservative Party]?”

Mr Grayling responded: “I accept the need for a positive vision. But it’s equally the case I find supporters complaining we’re not being tough enough on the alternative. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

He added: “The central decision for the country over the next 10 days is: ‘Do you want to carry on with the progress we’ve made?’

“And this is going to be the message we’re going to be putting out over the last few days of the campaign, as we have been pretty systematically through the campaign. You will see over this week and the last few days that message repeated again and again.”