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Man denies stalking Norwich MP Chloe Smith

PUBLISHED: 10:34 11 January 2011

A NORWICH Cathedral verger and former district councillor has angrily rejected claims that he has been 'stalking' city MP Chloe Smith.

Tories in Norwich north are at a centre of a fresh row after it emerged that party activist Ian Evans had been barred from the 28-year-old MP’s campaign headquarters last April year amid suggestions she was being pestered by him.

But the 64-year-old rejected the allegations as innuendo insisting that while he had been out for a couple of meals with the MP in the company of others, he had not been smitten by her.

Miss Smith said she would not be commenting on the issue, which is the latest hint of turmoil within her Norwich North Conservative Association.

But Mr Evans, a former Broadland district councillor and a Norwich Cathedral verger, from Hevingham, near Norwich, said that at no time had any formal complaint had been made against him and he was angry that he had never been given a proper explanation as to what he was supposed to have done. He has also written to Conservative Central Office complaining about the conduct of the MP’s agent Margaret Eastham.

The former Barclays Bank worker said that he had originally offered to help Miss Smith when she was campaigning to win the Norwich North by-election in 2009, and had written to her last year to express his concern after she began to appear offhand and cold.

“She has got a habit of being a bit difficult and distant and I found her very difficult,” Mr Evans said. “I just wrote to her and told her about it, because I didn’t see why, when you are putting yourself out as a volunteer you have to put up with that. It gives the impression that she is just using people. That’s all it was.”

He said the MP had responded with a letter saying she was seriously grateful for what he had done for the party and also for her personally, but when he went to help with general election a few days later on April 13 he was barred from entering the campaign HQ.

“There was nothing in it,” he said. “She seemed to have got the wrong end of the stick. She is a very difficult person to get along with. I just wrote to her, but they took that as me harassing her. There were all these innuendos about me stalking her.

“I’ve written to Central Office, but they didn’t want to know. They have just tried to fob me off.”

In her own statement to the Norwich North executive committee, Mrs Eastham said Mr Evan’s letter was having a detrimental effect on the MP and her election campaign.

“I was made aware of the effect that this letter was having on Chloe and her family,” she wrote. “She was clearly upset and this was having a seriously detrimental effect on the campaign so it was decided to hold a meeting the following morning. I was invited to attend the meeting with Baroness Gillian Shephard, Chloe, and her parents.

“After hearing full details of the history of this matter, the meeting decided to put the appropriate authorities on notice about Mr Evans, but not actually make a formal complaint.”

The row is the latest sign of turbulence among Conservatives in Norwich North. In November it emerged that five party officers, who were also senior councillors in Norfolk, had been stripped of their posts at the association, which was put into special measures bringing in Suffolk county councillor Colin Noble to run it.

It also emerged that constituency chairman Shelagh Gurney had also been suspended from the association for four months after police were called in to investigate an allegation that she assaulted a campaign worker at the party campaign HQ during the election campaign. She was subsequently reinstated and the matter was not pursued after the Crown Prosecution Service concluded it was not in the public interest.

Mr Evans said he had been left so disillusioned by events that he was considering quitting the party.

“I have tried to keep a dignified position on this,” he added. “I am not pursuing some kind of vendetta and I do not want to hurt her at all, but she has hurt me.”

A Norfolk Police spokesman said: “Norfolk Constabulary is not aware of any complaint received against Mr Evans.”

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