“Politics is about me” – how the Eastleigh Tory candidate first met the press
Maria Hutchings is preparing for a frenetic February as the Conservative candidate in the Eastleigh by-election. But will she give a press conference as lively and memorable as her first, eight years ago?
Ms Hutchings, a PR executive, had achieved instant celebrity by barracking Tony Blair during a live television show over the alleged inadequacies of the services that the Tory-controlled Essex County Council provided for her autistic son. She met Blair privately afterwards; he listened politely, asked her to write to him, which she did, and wrote back to say that he was passing her complaints to the Education department. She did not think this was good enough, and approached the Tories, who decided to parade her at a press conference during the 2005 general election as an ordinary member of the public.
Unfortunately, just before her appearance, a former Conservative MP and party chief executive, David Prior, had warned against what he called the “deeply irresponsible and particularly cynical” practice of whipping up “hysteria” during an election by “exploiting individual cases.”
When a Tory shadow minister was asked at the press conference about these comments, Ms Hutchings marched up to the microphone and declared: “I feel total disgust that you should think I am here as a political pawn. The system hasn’t used me: I’ve used the system. I’m not a political football. Politics… is about me. I don’t want this to be a media circus. This is the only way for all those parents and teachers out there that I can get the issue into the limelight.”
The Tory leader Michael Howard hastily closed the press conference to prevent journalists putting questions to her, nervous about what she might say next.
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