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MPs heading for record books

Michael Crick | 17:16 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Yesterday's announcement by the former Conservative deputy leader Michael Ancram that he is standing down at the next election is only the latest example of a highly significant trend.

The BBC's Political Research Unit now reckons there are 102 MPs now retiring at the next election.

Since 1945 the record number of MPs to retire at any election was 117 in 1997.

The Conservative Party Chairman Eric Pickles predicted last week that roughly 17 more Tories would retire because of the expenses scandal.

I would estimate the number of retirements yet to be announced on the Labour side to be between 30 and 40, partly because there are almost twice as many Labour MPs as Tories, and partly because many expect to lose their seats (so why go through the agony and humiliation). The Labour whips are said to think it could be many more.

Two MPs who have not yet announced their retirements - one Labour minister, one prominent Conservative backbencher - have already confided to me over lunch that they plan to do so in due course.

If you add a few more Liberal Democrats, Irish and other MPs then we could easily be heading for 140 to 150 retirements at the next election - maybe more. Some think the figure could reach 200.

That's almost a quarter of the whole House, and a higher figure even than in 1945, when there hadn't been a general election for ten years.

The figures below set out how many MPs have retired at each election since the war:


The different figures partly reflect the length of each Parliament, of course, so one would expect more MPs to retire after a 5-year Parliament than after a 4-year one (as in 2005).

An interesting trend is that in recent years the number of retirements has gradually increased. Since 1970, only one general election has seen fewer than 70 MPs retire - 1979 when 61 MPs stepped down (and October 1974 which was the second election in eight months). But before 1970 the highest figures were 66 in both 1950 and 1966.

Why this trend? Partly because local parties increasingly expect their MPs to retire at around the state retirement age rather than hang on into their 70s and 80s. The result is that far fewer MPs leave the Commons these days by death mid-term causing by-elections.

The increased number of retirements may also reflect the fact that MPs work a lot harder than they used to. You can no longer get away with being an MP who is semi-retired, as Winston Churchill did, for example, for his last nine years as an MP.

An added reason for MPs retiring at the next election, on top of the expenses scandal, and the prospect of defeat, may be the increasing restriction on outside employment, and the new requirements for MPs to declare such earnings publicly. Howard Stoate gave his desire to continue his outside work as a GP as a reason why he is stepping down (though he was pretty likely to lose his seat anyway).

And there are the points Alan Duncan made in the surreptitiously recorded video released today: "you have to live on rations and you are treated like shit".

So what are the political implications of all this?

Well, there will be a lot of fresh blood in Parliament, youngsters with fresh ideas and a different outlook, less stuck in the old ways of doing politics. On the other hand we may also have a House of Commons which is a lot less willing to challenge the government. New MPs tend not to rebel or ask awkward questions until they have built up experience and lost hope of achieving ministerial office. And there will also be far fewer old lags around the House who know how to cause trouble.

Which will all be good news, I suspect, for David Cameron.


  • Comment number 1.


    The more incumbents booted out, the more possibility there will be to vote-in true INDEPENDENTS. The parties have shown their bankruptcy Vote for integrity in individuals and SPOIL PARTY GAMES.

  • Comment number 2.

    Crikey Crick you've disgraced yourself with terrible bar graph. Please dont do that again.

  • Comment number 3.

    My first observation has to be the question as to who paid for lunch? The taxpayer or the license-fee payer?

    The second observation that it is not so much the experience of the Members but the quality of leadership in the House. There are sufficient support staff to guide new Members in the way the place works so the procedures need not be an issue.

    What determines the quality of Parliament are the standards set by the political leadership. If the Prime Minister disdains Parliament then the House collectively must kick his backside regardless as to party. Members have to accept that their first loyalty has to be to the House as this is the only place they can fulfill their duty as representatives of the people and that duty is to hold the government of the day to account.

    If anything it is political parties with large majorities which have undermined Parliament. Whoever is the next government one can only pray that whoever is the next opposition they will be the awkward squad. If our politics do not function properly after the next election then the only answer to our problems will be found on the streets. God forbid!

  • Comment number 4.

    'Retired' puts me in mind of Private Eye's 'tired and emotional'.

    Only without the affectionate humour.

  • Comment number 5.

    The Duncan Discussion....

    There is NO advantage WHATSOVER to plenty of new faces in the lower house if they have to follow the party whips instead of acting in the best interest of the GBP .... Period.

  • Comment number 6.

    you would think that being elected to the 'House' this would instill some sort of gravitas and respect but in a lot of cases the MP's learn the fiddles and off they go and 'sod 'em'to the poor bloody infantry

  • Comment number 7.

    Michael :

    That is simply the reality of the Members of Parliament not looking
    for re-election in the Next G.E.....

    NB: I am not affiliated and/or associated with any of the political parties in the United Kingdom....

    =Dennis Junior=


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