‘I’m a Tory, get me out of here’: MPs reflect on life after Parliament |  Conservatives

‘I’m a Tory, get me out of here’: MPs reflect on life after Parliament | Conservatives

Matt Hancock only has a few more days on I’m a Celebrity before returning from the safety of the Australian jungle back to the more toxic environment of the Palace of Westminster.

But this week, more Conservative MPs are pondering ways to get out of there – as a deadline approaches to signal their intention to stand in the next election.

MPs already predict that no less than 50 colleagues will decide not to vote in 2024, after looking at the state of the polls. Some are toying with whether to stay until the end of parliament or jump sooner – others are hoping for a final reshuffle to get a chance at a ministerial post.

Conservative MPs have been given until December 5 to indicate whether they want to stand down at the next election. The date coincides with the final decision on boundaries for the next election, so that the Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) can begin reviewing the full election picture with new constituencies.

Chloe Smith, the former secretary of Work and Pensions, and Will Wragg, the chairman of the select committee on public administration, have announced that they will be stepping down.

Chloe Smith
Chloe Smith, the former Secretary of Work and Pensions, has said she will step down at the next election. Photo: Imageplotter/Alamy

Smith is only 40 and Wragg 34 – with a significant portion of their professional lives ahead of them – but have decided they want out anyway. The tensions of the last five years of turmoil have been high for so many MPs – changes of prime minister, Brexit, the pandemic and power struggles between parties. And both are on track to lose their seats on the current voting track.

But some Tories predict that MPs like Smith and Wragg are likely to be younger outliers and that there will be a major generational shift in the party, with many veteran MPs choosing to step down.

“A third of us were new to parliament in the last election, but there are many Tory MPs who have been here for 15 or 20 years and feel they have served their time,” said one. “Some of them are in their sixties and seventies. When they go, they get a good pension and they can do some work here and there.”

Members of Parliament who are still ambitious but feel their seat is on shaky ground are starting to approach recruitment consultants, headhunters and former companies to get a sense of the post-election employment picture.

A longtime Conservative backbencher said they had few illusions about their fate — or plans for what might happen if, as expected, they lost their seat. “My constituency tends to change with the government, so it’s not looking too good for me at the moment,” they said.

“But it’s not like I’m alone. Some colleagues look at other things they can do, but many just shut up and get on with their work. Everyone realizes that the best thing we can probably expect in the election is damage control.”

Another MP said they expected some of their colleagues to leave now that they realized there was no longer any prospect of a government post. “There are colleagues who have been passed over for ministerial positions for years and now it is getting to the point where they no longer serve – in that case why should they stay?” one minister put it plainly.

Others worry that Keir Starmer is cracking down on MPs who have second, often lucrative, jobs in addition to their parliamentary work. “You have to bear in mind that if we stay on and go into opposition, the Labor government is likely to be very tough on second jobs,” one said.

Some have even debated whether to step down early – even if it meant the party faced a tough mid-term election – because they believed they would now be more employable.

“After the 1997 election, nobody wanted to hire a former Tory MP,” said one. “It will be the same this time around, so people are thinking about leaving early while they still have some money.”

Many have convinced themselves that life would be easier on the outside. “Even if the job wasn’t as high profile or interesting, I could make three times as much and still spend the whole weekend at home with my kids,” said a minister.

More MPs are expected to announce their departure before the deadline, but a number of Conservative MPs say they are likely to postpone their decisions until later to give themselves more time to decide.

Rishi Sunak could make another reshuffle, and one MP said they were waiting to see if there was anything for them for what they called “my last two years in parliament” before expecting to lose their seat.

“Rishi keeps dangling a reshuffle over our heads and of course that’s something that would be more attractive in the outside world, but saying you’re going now won’t get you a ministerial job.”

One of them said they almost decided to run in the next election even though they told CCHQ they were staying. “Under Liz [Truss] I would have gone like a shot, but I think Rishi has a chance to hold onto maybe 50 seats more than she would have,” said a senior backbencher.

Others have already started a new life in government because they thought their careers as ministers were now over – and might reconsider their future.

“I think there are a few, including Dom [Raab] and Michael [Gove] who may have decided to look for a new career after 2024, but now that they’re back in the tent, that decision won’t come anytime soon,” the backbencher said.

Labor consultants report an avalanche of attention from hiring consultants and lobbying firms, desperate for those with an inside view of the party.

“The phone just hasn’t stopped, it’s popping my head in. Even worse are people coming out of the woodwork trying to get commissions and jobs,” said a senior Starmer advisor. Conservatives will likely find the opposite to be true.

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