SHE’S faced a number of challenges in her life head on.

And Maria Hutchings is showing no signs of backing down from her latest battle – the fight to become Eastleigh MP.

Born in Romford, Essex, in June 1961 Tory candidate Maria was the first child of John and Vicky Payne.

She led a normal childhood alongside her brother, Simon, who is three years her junior, leaving Romford at the age of seven to live in Benfleet, where she attended school.

But just five years later tragedy struck when her father John, who had served in the army before going on to become a window cleaner, died after a four-year battle with cancer.

As an emotional Maria told the story to the Daily Echo she revealed that she was actually telling the tale on the 39th anniversary of his death.

His passing left a hole in Maria’s family and it was left to Vicky, who was born in Malta and met John while he was stationed on the island, to pick up the shattered remains.

“My mum worked in all sorts of jobs,”

Maria said.

“She worked at the local Lotus factory, she worked at a cardboard box factory, at a clothes factory doing ironing.

Basically, whatever she had to do to make ends meet.

“She ended up doing three jobs a day.

She’s just an amazing, amazing woman.

She managed to keep me and my brother with a roof over our heads.

“While my dad was ill in hospital for four years me and my brother let ourselves in at home and got on with it so I learnt to be quite strong and independent.

“At the age of 13 I was stacking shelves at International Supermarket and working the tills at Sainsbury’s, anything to make that bit of extra cash.

“But even though it was that difficult my mum never tried to stop me from going to university and convince me to go to work instead.”

Maria studied for a degree at Goldsmiths in London, ditching her original Dance, Music and Religion course after just two months to take up a place reading Social Science and Public Administration. And from then on she was hooked on politics.

Maria’s first job after graduating was in advertising, before moving to Malta with her first husband, where they lived for 10 years.

But she then focused on bringing up her four children, Victoria, 25, William, 12, Harriet,10, and her disabled son, John-Paul, 18, who have lived with Maria and her husband of 13 years, Stuart Hutchings, in Eastleigh, for five years.

“An awful lot of things have happened to me in my life that have been really challenging.

“The one thing about having a child with challenging problems is that my attitude to life has totally changed. I look at life in a different way.

“I get so much more out of every day.

Every day is an opportunity.

“When my dad died at such a young age I remember when I was 16 saying: ‘I’m never going to waste a day of my life. I’m going to do things, I’m going to make things happen, I’m going to make things better.’#

Maria Hutchings factfile:

  • Date of birth 16/06/1961
  • Place of birth Romford, Essex
  • Favourite TV series The Sopranos
  • Favourite band My Chemical Romance
  • Favourite sport Swimming
  • Favourite football team - Eastleigh FC
  • Hobbies/interests “It sounds a bit Miss World, but helping people, because that’s all I do. I spend all my time working with charities, with groups and people who need help. If I do get any time my respite would be sitting at home with my husband watching The Sopranos all over again.”