40 Tory MPs who are voting with their feet

Westminster exodus: Record number of departures paints embarrassing picture of disillusionment for the government

PATRICIA WYNN DAVIES

Political Correspondent

The number of Conservative MPs retiring from Westminster at the next election is likely to set a new record, and the party's number of women MPs also looks set to dwindle, Marjorie Mowlam, Labour's summer campaigns manager, said yesterday.

Spotlighting the 40 Tory backbenchers who have already announced their retirement at the end of the current Parliament, Ms Mowlam said the party was heading for the highest number of exits in a quarter of a century. There were 14 in 1974, 24 in 1979, 34 in 1983; 43 in 1987 and 59 in 1992 - but there is still up to 20 months to go before the next election.

Ms Mowlam said that while "Tory lemmings" were fleeing Parliament, Labour had six times as many women prospective candidates. The candidates to replace the outgoing MPs were invariably men, while the Tory "chicken run", in which ministers and MPs desert their existing seats for safer ones, was also driving women out.

Labour's progress in selecting women has, however, only been achieved at the cost of significant unrest within the party over women-only shortlists. As reported on page 2, a fresh legal challenge has been launched over the controversial quota system that reserves half party's winnable seats for women.

But compared to the 20 retiring Labour MPs and three Liberal Democrats, the string of Tories jumping ship paints an embarrassing picture of disillusionment for the Government, and the scale of the exodus cannot be explained by retirement on age grounds.

Although retiring MPs are not prepared to say so openly, the key factor is Nolan's recommendation that MPs declare the levels of earnings from consultancies, which many Tories want blocked.

Others view with distaste the prospect of life as an Opposition backbencher in the event of a Labour victory, but even if the Conservatives emerge victorious, the realities of working for a further term with a small Commons majority appears not to be appealing.

Some are faced with dramatically changed, or disappearing, constituencies through boundary changes and cannot face, or have already lost out under, the "chicken run". Others do not relish fighting a marginal seat in an election that will see the Tories defending more than 90 seats that would be lost on a swing of 5 per cent.

The multiplicity of minus points is prompting some to seize available opportunities for a new life in business or the City before their options are closed off, while others hope that an appointment to the House of Lords will enable them to continue political life.

Candidates to replace the departees include the Thatcherite former MP Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) and Oliver Letwin, the right-wing architect of the poll tax (West Dorset). The political scales are balanced, however, by the candidacy of the Number 10 Policy Unit members Damien Green (Ashford) and Tim Collins, the former Tory party communication chief (Westmoreland & Lonsdale).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project