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Tory campaigners in the dark on when MP Steve Baker will return from holiday

Local Conservative activists said they have been left in the dark about how long Steve Baker’s holiday to Greece will last, after the Wycombe MP chose to travel abroad within days of Rishi Sunak calling an election.

The Northern Ireland minister confirmed that he had followed through with holiday plans made prior to the Prime Minister’s surprise announcement on Wednesday, travelling to the seaside resort of Vasiliki this week.

Defending his decision, Mr Baker told the Daily Mirror: “The Prime Minister told everyone we could go on holiday and then called a snap election. So I’ve chosen to do my campaign work in Greece.”

Councillors in Wycombe, which has a majority of 4,214, told i that Mr Baker had not flagged his holiday or revealed when he would return – but said they felt confident his re-election campaign would be unaffected.

“We’ve been campaigning for probably the last nine months actually, so it’s not that we started campaigning since the election was announced,” Zahir Mohammed, a councillor for Chiltern Villages and member of the Wycombe Conservative association, said.

“He’s [Steve Baker] been with us all the way throughout this campaign. I’m not sure how long he’s gone off for, but he’s gone off I guess for a few days.

“It won’t affect the campaign at all because the team are still working out there on the doorstep.”

“Going off in a refresh and coming back, I think it’s a positive actually,” he said. “I don’t see any harm in that.”

Mr Mohammed added: “It’s a traditionally Conservative area. The gap has narrowed over the last few years. I think it should be Conservatives winning the seat. The margin will still be quite tight but I think it will still remain Conservative.”

He said voters’ key priorities are economic stability in the face of higher interest rates and inflation, the NHS and GP appointments, as well as national security.

Tony Green, who represents Terriers & Amersham Hill, also said he didn’t know how long Mr Baker, who has represented Wycombe since 2010, would be away for.

“I don’t think it’ll have any effect on the campaign, he told i. “I think people are relatively content, that’s the feedback I get, so I’m not seeing any great concerns.”

“We are always campaigning,” he added. “We’ve had regular campaigning for months.”

“All elections in my experience are tight and difficult to accurately predict, but certainly the comments on doorsteps suggests that the current MP will retain their seat.”

Labour has said that Mr Baker’s decision suggested he had already given up on his re-election campaign.

His Labour opponent, Emma Reynolds, told the Mirror: “I am staggered that Steve Baker has decided to go on holiday in the middle of the general election campaign.

“He clearly doesn’t care about his constituents.

“It’s time for change in Wycombe. During this campaign I will be fighting day in, day out for every vote to deliver a better future for Wycombe.”

An anonymous Labour source added: “Tory Ministers are giving up after 14 years of chaos and are abandoning the ship in droves. It’s time for change, with a changed Labour Party who will fight tirelessly for every vote.”

Compass, a centre-left campaign group, has identified Wycombe as one of nine target constituencies with big-name Conservative MPs they believe could be won through a “progressive alliance” against the Tories.

According to Mr Baker, Conservative voters have been largely supportive of his decision to travel abroad, though he admitted that “one or two” people had described it as “unconventional”.

He added: “My experience has been that when I talk to people who are quite keen to vote for me, they say: ‘Good on you’.

“I’ve been campaigning for months and my wife deserves to have her husband go away for a much needed break. It’s the only holiday we’ve got planned for the summer.”

Parliament had been set to be in recess this week, with few in Westminster anticipating the Mr Sunak’s announcement.

Mr Baker has been approached for comment.

Election 2024

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are out on the campaign trail after the Prime Minister announced a surprise snap election on 22 May. i‘s general election live blog follows all the twists and turns of the election period from all the major parties.

So far, the Tories have announced a controversial mandatory national service policy which has garnered mixed opinion from across the political spectrum, and a “triple lock plus” for pensioners. Meanwhile, Starmer has set out some of Labour’s key policies, while assuring voters they can be trusted on the economy and national security.

Odds on who will become the next Prime Minister currently favour Starmer, and the polls tell the story of a massive Labour majority.

Keep up to date with the 2024 general election in our extensive coverage, on everything from the main parties’ pledges on policies like immigration and pensions to the seats still without a candidate.

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