Sheffield’s historic Cutlers’ Feast is without a principal speaker following the sacking of former defence secretary Gavin Williamson - with one week to go until the prestigious event.
A spokesman for the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire said Mr Williamson would not be coming and his replacement - Penny Mordaunt - had indicated that she couldn’t come either.
But they still had “irons in the fire” and should have confirmation of a speaker soon.
The 383rd Feast is at the opulent Cutlers’ Hall on Church Street on Thursday May 23. The only ‘white tie’ event in the North, it is billed as the most important business dinner outside London.
Mr Williamson, the ex-secretary of state for defence, was announced as the principal speaker in March. He was summarily sacked earlier this month following an inquiry into an unprecedented leak from the National Security Council over Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network.
Mr Williamson “strenuously” denied being responsible.
The Cutlers' Feast is as old as the Company, which was founded in 1624 and today represents manufacturers in Sheffield City Region.
Two hundred years ago the event extended over three days with booths erected in the High Street and in the 'church yard' with all business 'generally suspended'.
In announcing Mr Williamson as speaker, Master Cutler Nick Cragg, said: "The Cutlers' Feast is one of the high points of the year and this year we face unprecedented challenges. We have an important member of the Government attending which will allow us to hear his views on the current state of the country in general and manufacturing in South Yorkshire in particular."
The Feast is recognised as an opportunity to showcase manufacturing. It is also the event at which the senior warden - the next Master Cutler - gives a keynote speech on the direction and challenges facing the region.
Other guests will include politicians and representatives from industry, the civil service, the military, City of London Livery Companies as well as Freemen and Friends of the Company of Cutlers.
The previous two speakers were Remainer Lord Andrew Adonis and business secretary Greg Clark.