Jonathan Djanogly withdraws from election hustings due to “fake news” claims

L-R Mark Argent and Jonathan Djanogly

L-R Mark Argent and Jonathan Djanogly - Credit: Archant

The former MP for Huntingdon and prospective parliamentary candidate for the constituency Jonathan Djanogly withdrew from a husting event last night claiming that a candidate had been “propagating fake news”.

Mr Djanogly, who has been the MP for Huntingdon since 2001, did not attend a husting event held in St Neots last night (Wednesday) after he claimed that the Liberal Democrat candidate Mark Argent had been spreading "fake news" regarding his re-selection as the Conservative candidate.

Mr Djanogly said that he was "unwilling to share a platform" with Mr Argent at the event, which took place at the United Reformed Church.

Candiates in attendance at the event were, Mark Argent (Liberal Democrat), Paul Bullen (independent(, Daniel Laycock (Green Party) and Samuel Sweek (Labour). Tom Varghese, who is also standing as an independent candidate did not attend due to 'prior engagements'.

Mr Djanogly notified organisers that he would no longer be attending the hustings on Tuesday afternoon. Residents then received leaflets from Mr Djanogly inviting them to the Anchor in Little Paxton, to answer any questions and concerns.

In a statement, Mr Djanogly said: "Having contested a number of Parliamentary elections, I have experienced a wide variety of campaigns where my opponents and I have disagreed on a good many issues. I have always endeavoured to be respectful of my opponents, strictly referring to policy in all my past and current literature, and I have often found this to be reciprocated, with each of us accepting that we represent a diverse range of views shared by many within the Huntingdon constituency.

"However, it has recently come to my attention that the Liberal Democrat campaign has been propagating fake news about my re-selection, and has yet to provide any evidence to substantiate those claims.

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"Not only do I feel it necessary to take a stand against the kind of lies and deceit which have begun to pervade our political discourse, but such underhanded tactics drastically reduce the common ground on which reasoned, factual debates can take place at events such as hustings.

"On that basis, I regretfully notified the organisers that I would withdraw from the hustings.

"I was delighted to still be able to meet with residents that evening, as I have throughout this campaign, to discuss how a strong Conservative majority will get Brexit done and focus on the issues that really matter to people, including education spending, police numbers and record investment in the NHS. Of course, I would still encourage all those with questions or comments to get in touch with my campaign, and I look forward to speaking to even more voters across the constituency in the coming days."

The news follows on from a petition that was launched, by campaign group Leave.EU Facebook page, an organisation dedicated to leaving the EU, to de-select Mr Djanogly as the Conservative candidate

Members of the Huntingdon Conservative Party had expressed their disappointment that Mr Djanogly was re-elected to stand to represent the party by the executive committee instead of through a whole party vote.

Speaking to the Hunts Post after the event, Mr Argent said: "Rather disappointed that Jonathan Djanogly didn't bother to turn up this evening. An excuse he has given is that he did not like something that we had put in a targeted letter to postal voters. I suspect there is more to it than that. What we put in the letter, was quoting something put in the St Ives Riverporter, which was that there was a petition To get him deselected, and you can find that from an outfit from blue wave. And he was only narrowly selected to a vote of 11 to 9. There has been various letters in the Hunts Post from local Conservative party members complaining as it was a decision of the executive and not of the whole party membership. Which to put it mildly doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement.

"What really strikes me is a sort of Tory arrogance, a sense that this is the election for them to lose, instead of rather than anything else. We have seen that with Boris Johnson refusing to take part in the Andrew Neil interview and refusing to take part in the climate hustings and this feels like it is a very convenient excuse not to come. It does feel like a very arrogant attitude towards his constituents that Djanogly feels that he can simply not bother to turn up and assuming that he will win. We are very much hoping that he will have a bit of a shock on polling day."

Other candidates at the hustings responded to Mr Djanogly's absence.

Mr Laycock referred to the empty chair as "not democratic" and accused him of being scared.