10 Jun 2009

Getting more 'people like us' into parliament

I've just come back from a meeting with the parliamentary candidate for Eastleigh in Hampshire, Maria Hutchings.
Maria and I have much in common, both having children affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorders. She is, you may remember, the woman who famously 'handbagged' Tony Blair during a TV show some years ago about the closure of special schools.
Since then, she's been selected to stand in Eastleigh for the Conservatives, although she herself is no dyed-in-the-wool-Tory, but just a woman who believes that if you want to get something done, you should do it yourself. The seat is currently held with a slim majority by the Liberal Democrats.
In the light of the recent expenses furore, Maria seems to be just the type of person that we need representing us in parliament; someone who is in touch with what people want because she is the same as them.
She is not one of the landed gentry with a property portfolio and a wallet full of expense receipts. In fact, I was surprised to learn that as a PPC, she does not get an allowance from Conservative Central Office and cannot claim for any expenses even though she's doing many miles travelling around to get herself known to the local constituents. Maybe this is one reason more 'regular' people don't put themselves forward - who could afford to spend several years as a candidate paying for travel and publicity costs out of family income?
I'm not a card-carrying Conservative myself but Maria impressed me greatly as someone committed to improving services for disabled people and especially those with ASD. But the reason I didn't write this on my 'Special Needs Jungle' blog is that Maria does not want to be a one-issue candidate. She has spent many months getting to grips with the issues of her potential consituents and making sure they know she will be working hard for them, indeed she already has a bulging postbag from local people needing assistance. If you would like to find out more about Maria Hutchings, you can visit her webpage.