The Tory campaign in the pivotal Eastleigh by-election got off to an embarrassing start today with their candidate embroiled in a plagiarism row.
Maria Hutchings has repeatedly stressed her local links as she attempts to overturn a modest Liberal Democrat majority in the Hampshire constituency. But her opponents pounced with relish on the disclosure that a description of the town on her campaign website had been copied verbatim from the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.
The Lib Dem candidate, Mike Thornton, offered to take her on a tour of the area. He said: “I’m more than happy to boost her local knowledge.”
Repeated attempts to contact the Conservatives in Eastleigh failed this evening and the controversial passage remained on their website.
Joining the campaign trail, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, refused to apologise for the behaviour of former colleague Chris Huhne, whose dramatic resignation triggered the by-election. He said: “My duty is to make sure the people of Eastleigh aren’t without an MP in Westminster for too long. Whatever anyone may think of Chris Huhne, he was an extremely good local MP.”
Ukip, who are aiming to push Labour into fourth place, named their candidate as Diane James, a Surrey district councillor and healthcare expert.