Eastleigh by-election: Tory candidate in state school "insult"

Maria Hutchings seems to suggest higly intelligent children don't get "the right sort of education" at state-run schools

The Tory candidate in the Eastleigh by-election has caused controversy by saying she couldn't get the "right sort of education" for her "very gifted" son in a state school.

According to the Daily Mirror, Maria Hutchings, who is vying to replace the disgraced Chris Huhne in the Hampshire seat, said yesterday:  "William (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."

In response, Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted: "Comments from Maria Hutchings totally wrong. An insult to every state school in the country. And all of their pupils."

The most recent Ofsted reports for Thornden, Wildern and Toynbee high schools- all in Eastleigh- have called them "outstanding".

One of Hutchings' opponents in the contest is author and satirist John O'Farrell, who announced he was standing for Labour earlier this week.

After the remarks, O'Farrell said: "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," he told the Daily Mirror. "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."

A Conservative party spokesman said: "Maria Hutchings wants all children to get the best possible education. That's why she's backing Michael Gove's reforms to bring back rigour to the state education system after 13 years of Labour.

"Maria has campaigned tirelessly to help parents of children with special educational needs get the best education for them."

The by-election, which will take place on February 28, was triggered when former Liberal Democrat Environment Secretary Huhne resigned in disgrace. He has pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

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