From The Guardian:
There is growing concern within the party that with a week to go before polling day her no-nonsense and frequently off-message approach is damaging its chances of seizing the seat from the Liberal Democrats.
Candidates from the other major parties were attending the debate – chaired by Victoria Derbyshire – on Thursday morning for 5 Live, a major set-piece of the week. But Conservative officials said Hutchings would not be there because she was expecting a visit from the prime minister at lunchtime.
However, the programme’s organisers contacted parties on February 13, with ample time for Hutchings to avoid a diary clash.
Lib Dem party President Tim Farron MP said,
The Tory candidate is clearly running scared. She’s refusing to show up to a hustings with the people she says she wants to represent, proving her claims to stay in touch are empty and worthless.
You have to ask why the Conservative machine keeps trying to hide her away. This is a candidate who says on her leaflets that she puts local people before political ambition, yet the moment she gets to share the spotlight with her party leader all that is forgotten.
UPDATE: In case you were wondering whether they really would “empty chair” Maria Hutchings on the radio, here it is:
Photo also available on Flickr.