The Prime Minister paid a flying visit to Eastleigh yesterday when he dropped into the B&Q headquarters in support of Maria Hutchings by-election campaign.
It had been known that the PM was planning a visit to the constituency but the exact destination was kept a secret until the last minute.
The retail giant is one of the largest employers in the area and the atrium was packed out with spectators when the PM swept in accompanied by Mrs Hutchings.
David Cameron quickly took his jacket off and took part in an impromptu question and answer session with members of the 800 strong workforce who filled the staircases and leaned over balconies to hear him respond off-the-cuff to a wide range of questions including immigration, the NHS, tax-credit, devolution and ‘a Hypothetical question’ on job off-shoring.
He was even asked if he was a member of the B&Q customer loyalty scheme to which he replied he was famously bad at DIY and drew mock boos when he confessed to having once assembled some Ikea furniture.
His audience seemed genuinely pleased and excited to the prime minister regardless of their political point of view and he told them:
“B&Q Is a fantastic business you create a lot of jobs you create a lot of wealth for our country”
On Wenesday during Prime Ministers Questions he had paid tribute to Mrs Hutchings as someone “who does what it says on the tin” and he paid further tribute to her during the meeting recalling how he had first met seven years ago when he was the Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills and how he had been impressed by her dedication to helping children with special needs.
“She is a mum of four and a businesswoman a person who fights very hard for Eastleigh and the people who live here. She is a brilliant candidate and would make a great member of Parliament.”
After the meeting although the prime minister was on a tight schedule time was still found to answer questions from local journalists. The Echo, Eastleigh News, Radio Solent, Wave 105 and Heart all has the chance to put one question to the PM
The previous night Eastleigh News had asked its 2000 + twitter followers what questions they would raise with Cameron and the top two concerns were immigration, closely followed by the NHS.
As reporters were limited to one question each it was the immigration question that was posed on behalf of our Twitter followers.
Responding Mr Cameron firmly blamed the last Labour government for what he described as a ‘Catastrophic increase in immigration”
“The last government made the mistake of lifting the controls on new countries in Europe like Poland before any one in Europe had done so that’s why there was a catastrophic increase in immigration.
“This government is not doing that. We will put in place transitional controls on every new member state from the European Union. We are looking at every aspect of our housing benefit health legal aid and another policies to make sure that Britain is not a soft touch”
Afterwards Maria Hutchings issued a statement:
“I would like to say a massive thank you to B&Q for having the Prime Minister and I here today. It’s fantastic that one of Britain’s most recognised and most successful businesses is based right on our doorstep. B&Q isn’t just a major job and wealth creator for Eastleigh, but for the whole of Hampshire.”
The local Labour Campaign HQ in the Town Centre was aware the PM was visiting the DIY giant and quickly commented:
“Forget about ‘doing what it says on the tin’ David Cameron will not find the tools he needs to fix the economy in B&Q, which announced 220 redundancies last October.”
“He should back Labour’s call for a VAT cut, and more affordable housing. Hard-working Eastleigh families need money in their pockets to be able to invest in their homes.”
Earlier before visiting B&Q the PM had accompanied Mrs Hutchings on door-to-door canvassing to some surprised householders in Horton Heath.