Dear Dudley Fishburn

A Conservative MP is stepping down because he says there's not enough to do. His colleagues seem to find ways to keep busy...
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The Independent Online
I am surprised to hear that you are to stand down as Tory MP for Kensington and Chelsea at the next General Election, not because of your health or scandal but because you believe that at the House of Commons "659 MPs cannot (short of being outrageous busybodies) find enough to do in our small, already well-governed Kingdom."

You exclaim: "Good heavens, we ran an Empire on a great deal fewer."

Assuming, as I do, that your decision had nothing to do with the fact that, last month, your public affairs consultancy advised clients to prepare for a Labour government, I am sure that your decision is a purely personal one.

But what can you mean when you say MPs are under-worked? Surely you yourself are kept busy with your consultancy, Harvard University and your work for the Economist. It must be pretty difficult to squeeze in a few days at the House of Commons on top of such a glamorous, lucrative and trying workload. Others of your colleagues have been kept exceptionally busy in recent years - the years of unrepentant Sleaze - what with nurturing secretaries and private researchers, and attending to affairs both foreign and closer to home, and sometimes both. How so many MPs manage to juggle lucrative directorships, family and dangerous liaisons with their gruelling work howling and baying like schoolboys at a House Match is anyone's guess. Busy, or what?

Not only this, but imagine having, as some of you do, to lie to family, friends, colleagues, party and nation about your complex business dealings. Most of us find it hard to remember the silly lies we occasionally tell, and so get into states and pickles. Not you chaps. You have press officers, spin doctors and a tribe of unctuous lawyers to ensure that whatever anyone says (and whatever you say) it is always nothing but the truth.

On top of all this emotionally exhausting activity, there are the free trips abroad, the consultancy work, the odd row with John Humphrys on the radio; there's the 90-day summer recess to cope with (what an effort to fill all that spare time) and sometimes you have to go to some dismal part of provincial Britain to talk to dreary constituents about their pathetic lives.

No, I have to say, I admire you chaps at Westminster. Some may call you childish, unprincipled, political puppets dressed in cheesy, off-the-peg suits, masters (and mistresses) of the 10-second soundbite. But I like to see you as hoary sons of toil, worthy of everything that comes your way.

Long gone are the days, surely, when on being told Queen Victoria wanted him to form a Government, Lord Melbourne could only fume "what a damned bore" before knuckling down to the Premiership. Gone too are the days when MPs could be accused of being hunting, fishing and shooting layabouts or being selected for safe seats simply because they were the right sort of chap.

With your identikit business conference voices, immaculately permed hair, horrid shoes and lack of interest in history, culture, civic values and Abroad, you are models of hardworking Thatcherite men and women. Our children should be proud of you.

Come on. Come on, Mr Fishburn, no more of this nonsense. Back to the grindstone please.

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