THEY say that behind every successful man there’s a good woman.

And Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton certainly has his wife to thank as he prepares for next week’s by-election.

Mr Thornton, who was born in Surrey, revealed how it was the words of his wife Peta that pushed him into the world of politics.

The youngest of three children, Mr Thornton appears to have finally settled down after a life that has taken him to America, Scotland and into countless jobs, from hotel management to catering at a safari park.

But having moved to Bishopstoke with Peta and their 19-year-old daughter Philippa in 1994, Mr Thornton became more and more interested in the world of politics.

“I’ve always been interested in it,” he said, “but I have my wife to blame for this!

“In the late 90s she said ‘you always go on about politics and you always preach to me telling me they shouldn’t be doing this and that. But what are you doing about it?’

“Before I knew it I was signed up as a Lib Dem activist in my ward. I worked hard doing the things that we do, focus groups, canvassing, and I found it more and more interesting.

“I was enjoying coming home from work and actually doing political things rather than watching TV.”

In 2007, he was asked to run as a Lib Dem councillor in his ward, eventually wrestling the seat from Labour.

Now he stands on the brink of becoming MP in the constituency he loves.

His parents Rosamond, 90, and Peter, 95, live just up the road in Alresford.

The couple met during the Second World War, with his mum, from Tennessee, on the frontline delivering coffee and doughnuts to soldiers.

Peter, who served in the British army before becoming a civil servant, met Rosamond on a day’s leave in Italy.

They married in 1946 in Tennessee, before moving to England.

The couple had two children, Andrew and Maggie, before giving birth to Mike.

He grew up in Farnham, attending school there, before going on to study law at Manchester Polytechnic – a course he would later drop out of.

Instead, he went to America to visit his mum’s family – and ended up staying for four-and-a-half years, living in Tennessee and then Seattle.

Mr Thornton said: “I had a wonderful time there, but then I found out my brother was having a family, my sister was having a family and I wanted to come home and see them.”

It sums up his character as a real family man.

He met Peta in 1983, before they tied the knot six years later.

They lived in Winchester at the time, but moved to a bigger home in Bishopstoke in 1994 after having Philippa, and have lived there ever since.

Mr Thornton waxes lyrical about his parents and his “super supportive” wife and daughter.

Peta, who works at Stoke Park Junior School, spent last week’s half term break delivering leaflets on her husband’s behalf.

Mr Thornton receives constant text messages of support from Philippa, who is studying medicine at Imperial College London.

Just weeks before his campaign started, Mr Thornton started a new job at a firm that helps companies invest using Government tax incentives – but he promised to keep their name under wraps because they didn’t want the publicity.

He added: “I’m enjoying the campaign very much – much more that I thought I would.

“To have the chance to sit in the back of an armoured BMW, with two cops with guns talking to the Deputy Prime Minister, what an experience to have. It’s fantastic.

“But I am one of a team and it’s one of a team that I will win as.”

Mike Thornton factfile:

  • Date of birth 01/05/52
  • Place of birth Farnham, Surrey
  • Favourite TV show West Wing
  • Favourite band Led Zeppelin
  • Favourite sport - Any racquet sport, but mainly squash
  • Favourite football team Saints
  • Hobbies/interests Going on walks with his family