I first came into politics because I wanted to stand up for some of the most vulnerable people in our society - children like my son who have special needs. I spent years fighting to get him the education and the support he needs. When people talk to me about struggling I understand because I have lived through it. As a mum of four I know what it is to work hard and sacrifice for your family in these tough economic times.
Even though I lost at the General Election in 2010 I didn't give up. I carried on working with local people and campaigning on the issues that matter to them - not because it was going to help me win an election, but because it was the right thing to do. You could never represent the people of Eastleigh without living and breathing their concerns. I'm not a career politician, but someone who truly believes that an MP should be a voice for local people.
That's why I've spent the last few years working with local residents opposing Lib Dem Eastleigh Council's plan to build 5,000 houses on green field sites. This development is inappropriate and unsustainable. During this by-election I have been shocked by the Lib Dems' literature in which they claim that they will protect green spaces, even though their candidate actually voted for the plan to concrete over our precious countryside. Their blatant hypocrisy has rightly angered the residents who have spent years campaigning against their damaging plans. Should I be elected as MP for Eastleigh on Thursday I'll continue to work with those residents to fight these Lib Dem plans.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a straight-talker, someone who is not afraid to speak their mind, tell it like it is and take up the battles of local people. I want to be a local champion for the people of Eastleigh.
But I also back David Cameron's clear plan to do the right thing for Britain. That means sorting out Labour's mess, cutting taxes for hardworking people and tackling the deficit. But it also means making our welfare system fair, controlling immigration and standing up for Britain in Europe. We've made progress already, but the Lib Dems are holding us back - they oppose David Cameron's plan to cut immigration further, make more reforms to welfare and hold an in-out referendum on Europe. That's why we need a Conservative MP who will support all these things.
Everyone knows Ukip can't win here. A vote for Ukip will only help elect a Liberal Democrat MP who opposes holding a referendum on Europe and David Cameron's tough target on immigration. MEP Marta Andreasen, who defected last week from Ukip to the Conservatives, agrees.
The last few weeks have been a blur of canvassing, campaigning and media. But on Thursday the people of Eastleigh have a chance to elect someone who will represent them in Westminster, someone who will be a strong local champion and someone who will back David Cameron's clear plan to make our welfare system fair, control immigration and give the British people a referendum. Only a vote for the Conservatives will deliver all those things.
That's why I'm asking the people of Eastleigh to elect me, Maria Hutchings, in the by-election on Thursday.
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