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Hutchings denies school criticism

Hutchings denies school criticism
Maria Hutchings has denied making disparaging remarks about state schools.

The Conservative candidate for the Eastleigh by-election had been criticised for comments she made to the Daily Mail that suggested it was “impossible” for her son to meet his ambition of becoming a surgeon in the state system.

But this morning Ms Hutchings stressed she had not said that state schools were not good enough for her son.

“I didn’t make that statement; I categorically deny that I said that,” she told BBC News.

“I went to state school, my husband went to state schools, my two eldest children are in state school, and I have to point out that my youngest daughter is on the list for Wildern and Wyvern - two secondary state schools just down the road - to go there in September.

“So how could I possibly be against state schools? It’s just that my son needed an appropriate education for him and I believe that every mother, father, and carer around this country has the right to choose what’s best for their child.”

Ms Hutchings had previously told the newspaper: “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 comes after a new poll gave the Liberal Democrats a 5-point lead in Eastleigh as the party's MPs suggest Nick Clegg's leadership could hinge on the result of the by-election.

The Populus poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft shows the Lib Dems on 33% in the constituency, with the Tories trailing on 29% and UKIP on 21%.

A "senior Lib Dem MP" told the Financial Times Mr Clegg's future "depends on what happens on Thursday”, while another said Mr Clegg's response to the Lord Rennard allegations had been "inadequate".

The calls come as the party nationally slumped to its lowest position ever in a ComRes national poll, placing 8%, behind UKIP.

Talking to BBC News, Labour candidate for Eastleigh John O'Farrell said Mr Clegg's admission that he did know about non-specific allegations against Lord Rennard in 2008 would not "help him at all" to deliver a Lib Dem win in the constituency.

Green Box: Hutchings denies school criticismClick to open

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