08:08AM, Wednesday 11 September 2013
The surprise withdrawal by Home Secretary Theresa May and education minister Michael Gove has cast a pall over this weekend's Windsor based Conservative Renewal Conference.
Mrs May - who is Maidenhead's MP - and Mr Gove had both agreed to attend the event taking place at the Castle Hotel on Saturday.
But last week Royal Borough Councillor George Bathurst - one of the events organisers - learned that both Mrs May and Mr Gove had pulled out, as well as best selling author Toby Young.
Cllr Bathurst was putting a brave face on the situation this week. But he said he felt the withdrawals seemed 'too co-ordinated'.
He said: "It seems to me it may well not have been their own decisions. It seems a great shame the party can't come together to discuss issues."
He said the conference would still be a great success. Windsor's MP Adam Afriyie is still going and outspoken MP Jesse Norman has also agreed to come - as well as recent president of the Czech republic Vaclav Klaus who will be the lunchtime speaker.Cllr Bathurst said: "It will be an interesting event at which a wide range of ideas will be expressed, maybe people will feel freer to speak if they are not government ministers."
More than 300 guests are expected at the hotel in Windsor High Street. Topics discussed will range from the EU to immigration, the Conservative arts policy and the BBC licence fee.
Mrs May's office had no comment to make on the matter this week.
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