One of the more interesting things to come out of David Cameron’s interview with Buzzfeed is the revelation that he intends to remain an MP if he loses the premiership in May. He said:
“If they hoof me out and go for the other guy, I’ll have to think of something else, but I hope I’ll still be a Member of Parliament. I love serving my constituents. I love politics. I love public service. It’s what I care about. It’s a vocation. In the unhappy event I’m not Prime Minister on 8 May, the people of Oxfordshire I hope will stick with me and I will stick with them.”
As James Kirkup argues in today’s Telegraph, this would be an unusual and welcome development in modern politics. No Prime Minister since the 1970s has sought re-election as an MP after losing office.
In the presidential years of Thatcher and Blair the idea of the Prime Minister as just another MP was eroded. Yet as the days of all-powerful Prime Ministers fade, perhaps it ought to return.
Their parties and the country would certainly benefit from being able to draw upon the wealth of experience enjoyed by those individuals who have reached the top.
It may also help to reverse two trends which are undermining Parliament today – such as improve the standing of politicians in the country.
As Kirkup points out, much of the poisonous reputation Blair enjoys today can be blamed not on Iraq – he handsomely won the 2005 election – but on his life after leaving Parliament.
There is something profoundly off-putting about a self-styled public servant and man of the people leveraging his time in office to join the jet-setting, perma-tanned super rich and it feeds into the suspicion of venal self-service which so stains politicians today.
But an ex-Prime Minister staying in office would demonstrate a long-term commitment to Parliament and to politics as, in Cameron’s words, a ‘vocation’: and this has another benefit.
This site is rightly concerned about the gradual transformation of MPs from citizen legislators, in for the long haul and with lives in the real world, to one- or two-term full-time professionals with an eye on moving on. We address this in the ConHome Manifesto.
Cameron could set an example by remaining in the Commons, pursuing (properly declared) outside interests whilst continuing to offer his expertise to the nation.
He might even, as Sir Alec Douglas-Home did, find useful service in a future Cabinet.