It started so well: the Tories’ challenge to take Chris Huhne’s former seat of Eastleigh launched with a poll lead, the first party to confirm its candidate, and the chairman in attendance. And then Maria Hutchings opened her mouth. This was too much even for Grant “Spiv” Shapps. Press were avoided. Photo-ops were curtailed. And the candidate was kept quiet.
Well, make that more quiet than she had been. Ms Hutchings has let it be known that state schools are not good enough for her 12 year old son: “William 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”. It would be interesting to see her research.
It would be equally interesting to know how a 12 year old can be so certain of their future career direction: many of the disciplines I’ve majored in over recent years were totally unknown and unforeseen when I was that age (and heart transplants, for instance, had not been successfully performed, so had I been interested in medicine, I’d have had little idea of future possibilities in cardiac surgery).
But back in Eastleigh, the latest Hutchings happening had gifted the Lib Dems an opening: Ofsted has given a number of high schools in the constituency an “outstanding” rating, and council leader Keith House pointed out that candidate Mike Thornton’s daughter had previously attended one of these, and was now at Imperial College in London ... studying medicine.
And, remember, most of those pesky voters send their children to state schools. This gave Labour candidate John O’Farrell his cue: “Ten years ago, when I was oncerned 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”.
So that’s the supposed business person persona of Ms Hutchings also slapped down. And the right-wingers throwing mardy strops over the involvement of a 12 year old in this campaign have to remember one inconvenient fact: it was the Tory candidate who put her child there in an effort to try and rubbish an education system which is actually working very well.
But this morning has brought respite for Maria Hutchings: Grant “Spiv” Shapps has popped up on Sunday Politics to say “It’s perfectly reasonable to look for the best options for your children”. That’s one to remember when he and his pals are laying into their opponents for shelling out to send their kids to a private school. This Tory campaign doesn’t seem to be going at all well.
So just think what a mess they could make of a General Election. Wha-hey!