Just hours after the Conservatives confirmed Maria Hutchings as their candidate in the Eastleigh by-election the party find themselves firefighting controversy flowing from an incident in which Hutchings ambushed Tony Blair during a 2005 TV debate.
Hutchings had to be manhandled back to her seat after rushing the podium during a filming of channel Five’s The Wright Stuff. When quizzed by reporters afterwards the candidate made unsavoury remarks about asylum seekers:
“I don’t care about refugees.”
Shouting at the then prime minister, Hutchings had alleged that her autistic son’s Essex special school was to close — but it later emerged that no such plan existed.
She later explained she took inspiration from Sharon Storer, the woman who confronted Blair outside a Birmingham hospital in 2001:
“It was the only way I could get his attention and become his Achilles Heel in the way that that lady was in the last election”
In a by-election that is shaping up to be a crucible of an intense interest from the press, Hutchings may regret telling reporters that ambushing politicians was:
“the new way to get issues into the media”
How do you solve a problem like Maria?