The Conservatives’ decision to select Maria Hutchings as their candidate for this month’s Eastleigh by-election is not one that has been well received by all in the party. As one of Cameron’s “A-list” candidates, Hutchings fought and lost the seat in 2010 (Chris Huhne increased his majority from 568 to 3,864) having risen to public attention following her ambushing of Tony Blair live on TV in 2005. To many Tories, she is exactly the kind of political novice that the party should avoid.
But Hutchings’s lack of experience is not the only problem for the Tories; there’s also her past bigotry towards immigrants and asylum seekers. After attacking Blair over an alleged plan to close the special needs school her autistic son attended in Essex (Conservative-run Essex County Council later confirmed that no such plan existed), Hutchings was interviewed several times and had the following to say.
With an increasing number of immigrants and asylum seekers then the pot is reduced for the rest of us.
Mr Blair has got to stop focusing on issues around the world such as Afghanistan and Aids in Africa and concentrate on the issues that affect the people of Middle England, like myself who pay the taxes which keep the country going.
In another interview she remarked:
I don’t care about refugees. I care about my little boy and I want the treatment he deserves.
Given David Cameron’s commitment to international development and the coalition’s plan to increase aid spending from £8.65bn (0.56 per cent of GDP) this year to £11.7bn (0.7 per cent of GDP) in 2014-15, one wonders what Hutchings makes of Cameron’s approach.
If she regrets her 2005 comments, she should at least be required to say so. And if she doesn’t, is there really room for her in the “modern, compassionate” Conservative Party that Cameron aspires to build?