“In the short term, a few older MPs with knowledge of the outside world will hang on. But some of their younger colleagues will quietly leave, telling friends that the loss of earnings is the last straw that broke the camel’s back – on top of vanished privacy and declining status. And, in the medium term, much future talent will avoid the Commons altogether.
Most of the rest will get in quick, scramble to the top, and get out quicker. The Commons’ institutional memory will weaken. With a number of exceptions, MPs will become cowed and toiling drudges. Fringe eccentrics and exhibitionists will provide the necessary colour, coming and going like celebrity TV contestants – briefly exalted and just as swiftly toppled.
Forceful Ministers and effective Select Committee Chairmen are likely to be scarce in such a shallow pool. And the reputation of the Commons will continue its downward spiral. Such is the Pandora’s Box that the national media elites have helped to open – one which, needless to say, they won’t be able to close. In making this case, I’ve little personal interest, since my earnings outside Parliament are minimal.”
So I wrote on this site after I decided to leave the Commons in 2010.
William Hague announced yesterday that he will stand down at the next election. He is 53.
So did David Willetts. He is 58.
So did Greg Barker. He is 48.
So too, today, has Andrew Lansley. He is 57.
All will go off to earn more money. Earning money is in itself a good thing. What is a very bad thing is that a rising number feel that they can no longer do so while also serving as MPs (though some will certainly be made peers): the citizen legislator is being replaced by the professional taxpayer-funded politician.
There will be fewer MPs around to say: “We tried that – but it didn’t work.” Or, better: “We tried that, it didn’t work – but here’s how it could have done.” There will be more Greg Barkers, off in their 40s, and fewer Ken Clarke, around until their 70s. I said it would happen, but didn’t expect it to do so so quickly.