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We Need to Pay Attention to What Happened in Eastleigh

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Last week a row broke out between the BBC and PM David Cameron when Maria Hutchings skipped Eastleigh hustings to prepare for an event with the Prime Minister.

Rather than attending a question and answers session set up by the broadcaster, Hutchings attended a Cameron Direct session at a local factory.

Critics accused Cameron of 'gagging' a 'loose cannon' and came under pressure when a BBC correspondent pointed out that Hutchings should have attended the hustings event because he himself had been there. Cameron's retort was delivered in style, a provocative retort wrapped in chain mail rhetoric and finished with a Conservative polish.

'I think the BBC has behaved badly and stupidly about this', the Prime Minister told the correspondent, while adding 'You're not the most important thing in this by-election. The candidates are.'

In sensational style the mainstream media focused on the reference to the BBC's ineptitude rather than the chunk missing in Cameron's vernacular armour. The wing flap of the Conservative butterfly went unheard. The point had been missed. And while the pages of newspapers lit up with subjective tit-for-tat detailing who was right and who was wrong the people of Eastleigh were forgotten. And it is the people of Eastleigh, the constituency's voters who were the most important thing in the by-election. Not the by-election candidates.

Against the backdrop of a district blighted by ministerial scandal an heir of cynicism had already existed towards MPs in the Eastleigh district. It is a cynicism culminated by occurrences past and present that has brought the district into the media spotlight time after time.

In 1994, former Conservative MP Stephen Milligan was found on a table in his Hammersmith home. Milligan was naked apart from a pair of women's stockings, and had died of suffocation caused by asphyxiation. A process thought to have increased his sexual satisfaction. Chris Huhne, the former Liberal Democrat climate change secretary recently stood down from his Eastleigh position after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice over claims that ex-wife Vicky Pryce took speeding points for him a decade ago.

Deception, clandestine behaviour and public disgrace has refused to abate the district's political representatives, and this is why Hutching's campaign posters cleverly portrayed her as "a local MP you can trust." The party was saying that there is no scandal here, this MP is not like the others - integrity will finally be brought to the district because the Conservatives are aware of the past. But Cameron's typically Conservative statement had not only contradicted the by-line for Hutching's campaign, it also justified and compounded the cynicism amongst his critics.

So how can trust be placed in a party's policies where an area's candidate is more important than its people? And how can people nationwide place trust in a party's European, welfare and economical policy when its leader holds its colleagues in higher regard than the people it represents?