No-show from Matthew Doocey

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 13:42 27/11/2013

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National's Christchurch East by-election candidate has been slammed for deciding to put family ahead of a critical election debate tonight.

Matthew Doocey said the invitation to speak at tonight's WeCan earthquake recovery debate came in "at the last minute'' and he had already agreed to watch his godchildren's end of school year production.

But his main rival, Labour's Poto Williams, said she was "staggered'' to learn Doocey would be a no-show at what she said was probably the most important debate of the campaign.

WeCan organiser Reverend Mike Coleman, who had planned tonight's debate, was also angry Doocey would not be there, especially as he left it very late before responding to his invitation.

"It feels a bit like avoidance to me.''

But Doocey said he had already attended a debate in New Brighton this week and there had been plenty of opportunities for voters to put questions to him and other candidates.

"I was one of the first candidates and have been working for the last eight weeks. Most of the debates were locked in early into the campaign schedules.''

Doocey said his nephew and niece, who were also his godchildren, had asked him weeks ago to watch their end of year show - well before the WeCan invite landed.

"I can only stress this is a family commitment. I have made this decision and I stand by it.''

He was happy to provide written material and even film a video clip for tonight's debate but had heard nothing back from Coleman.

The earthquake recovery issue was a very important one and a key reason he chose to run in the November 30 by-election, Doocey said.

But Williams struggled to understand why he would not be at a debate she said focused on the single most important in the by-election and the biggest issue facing voters.

"I think it's pretty extraordinary he's not going to be there.''

Williams had cleared her diary of other events to make sure she was there tonight.

"I'm going because it's the most important discussion we will have. I'm staggered he (Doocey) wouldn't take that chance.''

Meanwhile, Coleman said at least five by-election candidates would face some hard questions on recovery issues in the east.

Tonight's forum will be held at Roy Stokes Hall in New Brighton starting at 7pm.

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