I’m extremely sorry to report that the MP for South Thanet has announced this morning that she will leave the Commons when the present Parliament comes to an end. She said:
“It is with great sadness and regret that I wish to announce that I will not be standing at the next general election in 2015. For the last six months I have been considering my future in light of a wide range of family demands and have decided that I cannot combine the level of dedication and service needed for the constituency with my growing personal responsibilities to those closest and dearest to me.
It has been a difficult and heart-wrenching decision to make as there is no greater honour and privilege than representing the constituents of South Thanet. The people of South Thanet are an inspiration to me with their dedication to our communities, their strength, their steadfastness and their sense of identity. I want to thank all those who have worked with me to ensure that we are getting the best for our local towns and villages.
Over the past few years, I believe that we have together secured many positive improvements to the quality of life in South Thanet: £40million of small business support funds; improved High Speed train services; flood defences; new international business investment into the area; an extended visitor season; and improving standards in our schools and colleges.”
I’m sad at the news because the Commons is short of lateral-minded, original and free-thinking politicians, and Laura is certainly one of these, with a lot to offer to Parliament – as is indicated by her writings on the site, in which she has concentrated on consumer power and producer transparency. Laura used to work for Which?, has unusual business experience in eastern Europe, and a wider range of interests than most politicians I know: very few specialise both in defence and the environment.
Tim Montgomerie wrote when reporting her adoption for the constituency in 2006 that she is also one of the nicest people in politics – which is true now, and was true then. Her views on the EU certainly aren’t mine, but the Party should have room for them, at least if it isn’t to become a less broad church than in its election-winning past. I understand that the family demands on her are considerable, and know that her decision won’t have been taken lightly.
Labour won the seat in 1997 by less than three thousand votes, and held on to it in 2005 by a three figure majority. Laura’s majority in 2010 was 7,617, and she took 48 per cent of the vote. While nothing can be taken for granted, that certainly isn’t the majority of a marginal seat: interestingly, South Thanet doesn’t appear on Labour’s official list of 106 target seats – a list which I suspect is in any event only for public consumption: the real number of targets will be smaller.
In any event, good luck to Laura – and in due course to her successor as Conservative candidate.