MP who served Labour and Tories retires

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A long-serving Conservative MP is standing down at the general election. John Horam, who represents Orpington, in Kent, has spent more than 30 years as an MP, serving as a minister in both Tory and Labour governments. The resignation of the 70-year-old, who was untouched by the expenses scandal, brings the number of Commons retirees to 108.

The total, swelled by the ranks of MPs effectively forced out over expenses embarrassments, is already significantly higher than in recent years.

Coupled with the effects of what is expected to be a notable vote swing towards the Conservatives, the Commons is likely to see one of its biggest-ever intakes of new faces.

Mr Horam retained the seat with a majority of almost 5,000 in 2005 and his successor as Tory candidate will benefit from boundary changes which favour the party.

"It has been a great honour and pleasure representing Orpington, but I will have done the job for 18 years by the next election," he was reported to have told the local association.

"It is time for someone else to take over."

He told his local newspaper, the News Shopper: "It is an exciting period for the Conservatives but sometimes you have to think about your party and not yourself.

"It is a good time for someone new to represent the party in Orpington. It will seem strange watching the next general election and not actually taking part."

Mr Horam was first elected in 1970 as the Labour MP for Gateshead West before joining the breakaway SDP in 1981 and unsuccessfully fighting Labour in Newcastle upon Tyne Central in 1983.

When he did return to the Commons nearly a decade later, it was as a Conservative MP for Orpington, the seat he has represented since the 1992 election.

Under John Major he also returned to frontbench politics, serving as junior health minister from 2005/07, 26 years after being a junior transport minister in Jim Callaghan's Labour administration.