Blair accoster backs Howard on special needs schools

Blair accoster backs Howard on special needs schools

Maria Hutchings, the woman who accosted Tony Blair during a TV debate last month, made a reappearance this week – at a Conservative Party press conference.

The 43-year-old mother sprang to fame when she marched up to the Prime Minister while he was appearing on Channel Five’s The Wright Stuff to tackle him over proposals to close the special educational needs (SEN) school attended by her ten-year-old autistic son.

On Monday, Ms Hutchings told the assembled press that she backed Conservative leader Michael Howard’s proposals to end the closure of SEN schools and to move away from the policy of inclusiveness (full story).

Following last week’s furore surrounding Margaret Dixon, Labour criticised the Conservatives for using individual cases to try and gain ground. Mr Howard replied that a general election was an opportunity for people like Maria Hutchings and Margaret Dixon to express their concerns.

But the final say goes to life-long Labour voter Ms Hutchings herself, who rejected accusations that she was being used, telling reporters: “I feel disgusted that you should think that I’m here as a political pawn.”

The week had begun with the Liberal Democrat spring conference and a fresh new look for the Liberal Democrat’s website.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy told the conference that his party would win votes at the forthcoming election by pointing out that they – not the Conservatives – offered a “real alternative” to Labour (full story).

Good news for the Lib Dems soon followed with the publication of a Populus poll for the Times on Tuesday, which put the party on 20 per cent – two points up from the previous month (full story).

On the same day, Labour launched its health mini-manifesto with the headline pledge that no-one would have to wait longer than 18 weeks for a hospital appointment if Labour won a third term (full story).

Earlier, Mr Blair told the The Observer he was “up for it” in reference to the forthcoming election, but was aware his personal standing had become an issue (full story).

On Wednesday, the Scottish National Party promised to reduce taxes on Scottish business if it won power in the general election (full story); while the Conservatives focused their attention on international development (full story).

Thursday brought six key pledges from Labour on crime, including a visible policing presence on Britain’s streets (full story); and a manifesto for older people from the Liberal Democrats (full story).

And while the end of the week brought difficulties in the House of Commons for the Labour Government and its Anti-Terror Bill, the party ended the week £2 million better off following a donation from Lord Sainsbury (full story).