The Sketch: Dave's at B&Q so Maria doesn't do it herself

Like a human shield, he ensured the limelight on his would-be MP was not too harsh

Shirtsleeved, in the packed atrium of B&Q's headquarters Dave – and this was very much a "Dave" occasion – was at his frankest. "Look," he said, asked if the debate on Scotland's independence wasn't a bit messy, "that's a very good question. I'll lay my cards on the table." We tensed. "I passionately believe in the United Kingdom."

Appearing amazingly candid while saying something entirely predictable was very much part of the Dave shtick on his trip to Eastleigh to back the Tory candidate in the forthcoming by-election, Maria Hutchings.

Asked whether the by-election mattered since it was between two parties in government, he again decided to "lay my cards on the table". The "most important thing" was "who knows the area, who is going to stand up for it … and that's what you get with Maria".

It would have been more exciting if he had said: "As far as I am concerned, Scotland can sod off. And I need a win in Eastleigh to bolster my leadership but quite honestly, given her hostile views on Europe, gay marriage, abortion and whole lot of other hot-button issues, she's going to be exactly the sort of rebellious backbencher I could do without."

But that wouldn't have served the purpose, which was to emphasise Ms Hutchings' local credentials (though she originally hails from outside Eastleigh and has been accused of boning up on it via Wikipedia) and that she has four children (the poor Liberal Democrat candidate, Mike Thornton, has only one). While ensuring that she didn't answer questions on policy.

And it worked. By the end, we could have recited her attributes as a "local mum" in our sleep. He was helped by the setting, with its happily captive audience surrounding him on three levels and decorated with B&Q slogans – like the convenient "Handy prices to help you do it". Eat your hearts out, Office for Budget Responsibility, with all your gloomy talk of rising costs!

The toughest question was probably whether he was a member of the B&Q customers' loyalty club. No. He was "famously" bad at DIY "but I'm very fortunate to be married to someone who's not just artistically brilliant … but who can knock up a set of shelves in no time". Then he mysteriously added that he needed the compliment on the record because "I didn't do so well on Valentine's Day this morning". The B&Q staff were too polite to ask what went wrong.

Once, by-election candidates held daily press conferences, with visits by party leaders a valued bonus. On Wednesday, Cameron was like a human shield, ensuring the limelight on his would-be MP was not too harsh. She did speak at B&Q, describing how she had fought a greenfield development here, opposed a gravel tip there.

But then, introducing her, the Prime Minister had declared: "She's a local mum, four kids and she's had a great business career. She lives here, works here and she will really put her back into working for you."

Local. Mum. OK, Dave, we got the message.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones