A MOTHER who confronted Tony Blair in the run-up to the last General Election has been chosen to fight a marginal seat for the Tories.

Maria Hutchings, from Benfleet, who ambushed the then Prime Minister during a series of televised question-and-answer sessions with the general public, has been selected as a prospective parliamentary candidate for Eastleigh, in Hampshire.

Mrs Hutchings, 46, hit the headlines when she advanced towards Mr Blair on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff chatshow carrying a photo of her autistic son, John Paul, who attends Cedar Hall special needs school, in Thundersley.

She called on Mr Blair to provide more support for children with learning disabilities, bringing the need for more funding for special needs schools into the spotlight.

The mother-of-four decided on a political career last year to further her quest, but failed in her bid to win selection for the Basildon seat.

She will now stand against Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat shadow environment food and rural affairs secretary, who has a 568 seat majority.

Mrs Hutchings said: "I feel hugely privileged to have won the trust and confidence of the Eastleigh Conservative Association.

"I have campaigned vigorously for special needs children and now I will take that enthusiasm, energy and passion to fight for the people of Eastleigh.

"I believe they, like the rest of the country, have had enough of this dreadful Government - it's time for a change."

The communications consultant said she was putting her house on the market and planned to move to Eastleigh soon.

Since her televised head-to-head with Mr Blair, Mrs Hutchings, a former Labour supporter, has been appointed to a Tory policy group looking at the reform of public services.

She has also campaigned against the closure of good special schools.