The Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall, has been criticised for failing to turn up at a hustings in Stoke-on-Trent Central, the constituency where he is contesting next week’s byelection.
Nuttall gave just an hour’s notice that he was pulling out of the event on Thursday that had been organised by business representatives in the area.
He claimed he needed to attend “essential party meetings” before a Ukip conference.
Meanwhile, Nuttall’s personal website was offline on Thursday, displaying a message saying that the site had been temporarily taken down. It comes in the wake of his admission that the claim he had lost “close, personal friends” at the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster was untrue.
The claims, twice made in posts on the website, vanished shortly after Nuttall’s admission on Tuesday. On Wednesday night, the entire content of the site disappeared, and was replaced with a notice that read: “Site is offline for maintenance. We are currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please try back soon.”
It is the second time in less than a week that Nuttall has failed to attend a hustings event in the constituency. On Saturday, he did not attend one at a local sixth-form college. Voting is now one week away.
According to Ukip activists in Stoke, Nuttall has been finding it hard to juggle his commitments as party leader and as an MEP for the North West with campaigning in the constituency.