Comment piece by Nathaniel Mawson
Being gaffe prone is a double-edged sword, on the one hand it forms character like the mayor of London Boris Johnson. However, it can also lead to a political career having its throat slit at birth which seems to be exactly what is happening with Maria Hutchings as the Conservatives failing and hopeless PR crew watch on.
The Eastleigh seat which was resigned recently by Chris Huhne is remarkable for providing a large majority and then returning at the next election to a majority of only a few thousand or less. However, regardless of this not-particular crushing support Eastleigh has still returned a Liberal Democrat MP since 1994. The picture wasn't quite the same from 1955 to the 1994 by-election when the seat was constantly in Conservative hands and it's hardly a surprise that this has been recalled as the talk has become narrowed to a two-horse race. Though, even with a strong Conservative history it would still be quite a large task for them to win, and a huge upset to the Liberal Democrats as well - so one has to wonder why of all people the Tories have put forward the laughable Maria Hutchings? So bad in fact is Hutching's campaign that even Boris Johnson has had to come along to cheer her along and he isn't even an MP and is hardly a stranger to putting his foot in it either.
One positive of the Conservative Party's campaign is their almost ruthless speed in getting started. They named their candidate quickly while the Labour Party took their time - and then some. However, right now the opposite seems to be true as far from getting out there the Tories are being criticised for hiding Ms Hutchings away because she is reportedly considered a "loose cannon". Loose cannon, a flattering term that here means "bloody liability".
So let's see just how much of a liability she has become -
State schools are not good enough for Ms Hutchings' little angel as she clumsily stated her son is "very gifted which gives us another interesting challenge in finding the right sort of education for him – impossible in the state system. He wants to be a cardio-respiratory surgeon.” Quite a blow to the concept of modernisation and the meritocracy we occasionally hear about at the latest Big Society relaunch. Doctors apparently cannot make it through state school and be a success - well now you know.
In reply the Labour candidate John O'Farrell expertly destroyed her point by stating that "Ten years ago, when I was concerned about the lack of suitable local schools, I organised with other parents to set up a new non-selective state school. My own children went there and I served as chair of governors for eight years. Maria Hutchings claims to ‘get things done’ – but in actual fact the opposite is true. All she’s shown is that she’s just as out of touch as the rest of the Conservative party, whether on education, tax cuts for millionaires or trebling tuition fees.” This is absolutely spot on one cannot claim to be hands on or to "get things done" and then run away from problems. We want our politicians to fix things and make them better, especially when Maria Hutchings dismisses the "rich Tory toff" stereotype and insists she is fighting on the behalf of "ordinary people".
Nadine Dorries has come into huge amounts of criticism for her stance on pretty much everything but it's her views on abortion that stand out to many. Maria Hutchings is no stranger to abortion limits as she is a "pro-lifer and would have voted to reduce it as far as possible." When Dorries was pressed about her desired limits the Political Scrapbook reported her as saying "If anybody else wants to take the vote down to 20 weeks, I’m very happy to hand the baton over. It will not be me who takes a vote down to 12 weeks. My campaign is for 24 [down] to 20." So if cutting the limit down to 20 weeks is controversial what about cutting the limit to 10 weeks? That's exactly where Hutchings stands and even Dorries' ideal 12 wee limit is still generous in comparison.
A big issue for the Conservatives to overcome lately was Equal Marriage, which more Tories voted against than voted for and Hutchings has pinned her colours to the mast. Hutchings is in the anti camp saying that "we have civil partnerships" and citing her Catholic faith.
What about Europe? Out. That's how Hutchings would like to vote anyway. It seems that every major Government policy, schools, Europe, equal marriage all lack her support giving credence to the allegations she is being hidden away. If she is then the Tories must realise they have made the wrong choice. If she isn't then she probably should be kept out of the public eye. Either way the people of Eastleigh can do better than elect an anti-feminist, anti-equality right wing gaffe-machine.