Maria Hutchings might be an MP in three weeks. She has unsurprisingly been unveiled as the Conservative candidate for the vacant parliamentary seat in Eastleigh following the resignation of future Her Majesty’s Pleasure tenant Chris Huhne on Monday. The story of Maria Hutchings though is rather an interesting one, from life-long Labour supporter to the Tory A-List along with the likes of Louise Bagshawe, Zac Goldsmith and former Coronation Street Star Adam Rickett to a spot in a very winnable seat all within two years. So what do we know about Maria Hutchings and more importantly her back story and motives for getting involved in politics?
Well she first came to prominence in 2005 when she confronted the then Prime Minister Tony Blair about the possible closure of Cedar Hall School in Thundersley in Essex. In its own words, ‘Cedar Hall School is an innovative and forward looking all age (5-16) Essex LEA School, which provides education for pupils who primarily experience global moderate learning difficulties, but who may experience speech, language, emotional, behavioural or autistic spectrum secondary disabilities.’ Mrs Hutchings you see has a son who suffers from autism and she was worried that the school would be shut.
The thing is the school wasn’t in danger of being closed by the Tory run County Council – and more importantly – it never was. ‘I had to find a way to help my son’ she vowed but helping her son didn’t require her confront the PM over anything because the school was never closing. So she was basically attacking the Prime Minister on a personal issue that was about something that was never even proposed. Sounds a bit strange to me but I will concede that I am not a parent and if you are then you might not think as logically when something may affect one of your offspring.
Speaking after meeting Tony Blair after confronting him in 2005 she said:
“Tony Blair was very, very attentive. He listened to everything we had to say. We are going to meet him again.
“He said to me that he knew something about autism. He felt sorry for what we had to go through. He said that he would be looking into all this personally.
“Tony Blair has been looking out of the country at wars and issues abroad – Aids, Africa, Afghanistan and wars in Iraq – so Middle Englanders are the forgotten ones.
“The people who have to pay the taxes that keep the country going – we want our share for our families and our children.”
So she was seemingly pleased with what he said but she wasn’t happy that he was working on things like Aids in Africa, I mean who would care about trying to stop the alarming rate of Aids in Africa? Her assertions that Middle England are the forgotten ones when talking about African children in the same sentence is the biggest load of bull I have read in a long, long time. I know we all like to care about ourselves first and foremost but who really are forgotten more – Middle England or African children?
Look Tony Blair did lots of good and some bad. His bad points were pretty out there but to say things like he was looking at situations like the dire one in Africa regarding the spread of aids and say that Middle England was suffering because of it is pretty out there and something that I personally just cannot get my head round.
Anyway three weeks later – after having described herself as a lifelong Labour Supporter she was at the Tory Spring Conference speaking thanks to a personal invite from then Tory leader Michael Howard. Commentators at the same rumbled about Mrs Hutchings being used by Howard and the Tories but she refuted these claims, “I feel disgusted that you should think that I’m here as a political pawn,” she proclaimed. So within a month of being a lifelong Labour supporter, being told that the Prime Minister of the nation was looking into her case personally (the one where the school was never under any threat of closure no less) she was at the spring conference of another party saying she wasn’t being used as a political pawn by them.
This as we know turned out be true as it was her using the Conservative party. Considering she was a ‘non-political housewife’ (who had canvassed for Labour since the age of 14 – but remember she was ‘non-political’) she seemed to be getting a taste for this politics lark and the next year she found herself on the Conservative A-List of candidates. Not bad for someone who was non-political.
The next year she was selected to be the Conservative PPC for Eastleigh, one of the top Tory target seats. Eastleigh had been Tory for donkey’s years until the Lib Dems stole it in a by-election in 1994 and had held it ever since but not ever comfortably. The MP she would be up against was Chris Huhne who had taken over the seat in 2005 with a majority of 568. She put her house up for sale in Benfleet, Essex and moved to Eastleigh to start her campaign. The fact that this all started about a campaign for her local school and she moved away from the area and the school is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. It was a great parachute choice by the Tories – bringing in a woman into a very winnable seat. It backfired though as she was unable to take it in 2010 which was a considerable disappointment for the Tory party.
However after 831 words I still haven’t gotten to the quote that really bugged me. Yes even more than her proclaiming that Middle England is more forgotten than the issue of Aids in Africa, which is in all honesty a reprehensible thing to say. Middle England isn’t even as forgotten as lower-income England yet alone the tens of thousands of children who die every single year in Africa due to Aids but heck some people in my opinion don’t live in the real world.
She went on to say this in 2005, ‘I don’t care about refugees. I care about my little boy and I want the treatment he deserves.’ The second part of her statement is fine but you aren’t straitjacketed into caring about just your boy or refugees – you can actually care about them both. Yes there are refugees that abuse the system but there are parents and English people who abuse the system too.
In the 2011 Census 119,964 people described themselves or were described as at least one of English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British. This means that 5,235 people in the borough identify themselves non British. Some of these people would identify themselves as refugees but would she care about these potential constituents? You have to wonder. Just bluntly saying you don’t care about certain sections of society – fellow human beings – to me comes across as callous and full of snobbery. Many refugees have come to this country and helped make it the great multi-cultural nation that it is but she doesn’t care about that – she cares about her little boy and seemingly in her opinion you can’t care for both.
She claims to be a progressive and doesn’t believe in state control but in the same interview she calls herself a ‘pro-lifer’ and would reduce the abortion timeframe to ten weeks, which is as far as I’m aware is a point where many don’t even know they are pregnant and before the 12 weeks scan which is the first big hurdle to overcome. So the state shouldn’t get involved…unless it is an issue she feels passionately about and then the state should very much be involved. Yeah sound free-thinking logic there…
Politics to me isn’t just about policies it is about the people. I identify myself as a Liberal Democrat but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything they do or what certain people in the party do or say. Some I would campaign for hard and some I wouldn’t. People have to pass the so called ‘sniff test’ to see if they are genuine.
For me Mrs Hutchings doesn’t seem to do that. She was always political, she used a TV show to get some infamy and not to further along the cause for her son’s school as she proclaimed, she flipped from Labour to the Tories in double quick time (something that I always struggle to understand – how you can be on one side of the political spectrum and move all the way across in one swift motion but that is another story). She was at the Tory spring conference within weeks of saying she was a Labour supporter and was put on their A-list of candidates and given one of their prime targets within a couple of years. It smacks to me that the whole thing was staged and planned – it may well not have been but that is how it looks to me now looking back at all the evidence.
I just don’t know what her motives are. Is she genuinely campaigning to get the ‘forgotten Middle England’ back on the front-burner and championing disability schools? Is she really a housewife who saw a problem and decided she wanted to help provide the solution to that problem? Or was this all one cold-calculated decision to make a name for herself and get into politics?
I know what my gut feeling is, we’ll see what the people of Eastleigh say on February 28th…
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