Toppled Tories fall on their feet faster: Stephen Castle and Rachel Borrill find out what happend to MPs who lost their seats in the general election

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HE MAY no longer be an MP but Robert Hayward, the Conservative backbencher rejected by the voters of Kingswood, Bristol, in April, still has the ear of the powerful.

As a freelance psephologist, Mr Hayward is advising Tory MPs on forthcoming boundary changes and among those given a recent consultation is the MP for Huntingdon, John Major, whose 36,200 majority could be cut by as much as 15,000.

Mr Hayward is one of 60 MPs who swelled the ranks of the jobless last year after the general election. Predictably, former Conservative ministers, particularly those with Treasury experience, have fallen on their feet fastest.

Chris Patten, who lost in Bath, is Governor of Hong Kong and Lynda Chalker, who lost Wallasey, remains Minister for Overseas Development, although now in the House of Lords. Francis Maude, former Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who lost Warwickshire North, heads the privatisation group at Salomon Brothers International, investment bankers.

Others exploiting ministerial experience in the commercial sector include the former Lewisham West MP, John Maples, former economic secretary to the treasury, now a director of a subsidiary of Saatchi and Saatchi, the advertising agency; Colin Moynihan (ex Lewisham East), former energy minister, who has advised companies incuding the oil firm Conoco; Christopher Chope (ex Southampton Itchen), a former transport minister, now adviser to accountants Ernst and Young and two smaller firms in the transport field.

Mr Chope defends former ministers' rights to use skills gained in ministerial office to their financial advantage. 'I am a barrister by profession, but five-and-a half years as a minister did not permit me to practise and it would be rather difficult to start up again'.

Many from the back benches, even from the Conservative side, have a more difficult time.

Martin Brandon-Bravo, who lost Nottingham South, is now a self-employed industrial consultant. He has been selected to fight the European Parliament seat of Nottinghamshire South and is worse off financially.

Mr Brandon-Bravo has 'no time for those politicians who moan on about how badly they are paid. You earned enough and there were plenty of compensations you can't put a price on.'

Like other Tories, he misses his proximity to power but not the MP's lifestyle.

'When I was the Home Secretary's Parliamentary Private Secretary I used to get up at 4.30am on Monday mornings to get into the office in London at 7.30 before the traffic build-up. At least I don't do that - I actually have a civilised life.'

Ron Brown, formerly Labour MP for Edinburgh Leith, still unemployed, hopes for reinstatement in his former seat although he does not miss the more rarified elements of the Commons. 'I've applied for over 300 jobs, but with no luck,' he says. 'I'm determined to get on, I know a lot about life. Unemployment is no different for me than for the other three million people out there. We all deserve prospects. I've had one job interview as a fundraiser for a Palestinian group, but I was told I was too political for them.

'I've tried for anything and everything, even Mickey Mouse jobs. It's important to keep a sense of humour. I can't disguise who I am or change my name to Kevin Maxwell so I can claim unemployment benefit. I've been told I'm not eligible for benefit until June. But you've got to be resilient and a fighter. '

Others have resumed their former professions, including Humfrey Malins, former Tory MP for Croydon North West, who is a solicitor. Lewis Stevens (formerly Tory MP for Nuneaton) has picked up the threads of his former career as a self-employed industrial engineering and management consultant, though he misses the 'club' in Westminster and the involvment in national politics.

Similarly, James Sillars, former SNP MP for Glasgow Govan, has resigned party posts and returned to his consultancy work which specialises in advising Scottish firms which do business with the Arab world.

By and large, Opposition MPs have had the toughest time. Liberal Democrat Richard Livsey, who lost Brecon and Radnor by 130 votes and is now director of the agriculture training board in Wales, had 'great difficulty finding a new job'.

It was, he said, 'only through determination that I found one. I applied for a job in the higher and further education funding council for Wales, but am still waiting for an acknowledgement to my letter. It is very difficult for an ex-MP, unless you are a Tory, to get a job. People just do not want to know you. There is one rule for the Conservatives and one for us.'

Rosie Barnes, the former SDP MP for Greenwich, was 'heartbroken' when she lost, but within a month she became the Director of Birthright, a charity for the welfare of mothers and babies

Former colleagues on the Labour benches have been forced to be more inventive. Terry Fields (who was MP for Liverpool Broad Green), manages the New Mayflower, a Liverpool pub owned by his brother-in-law. He has found 'some similarities between the pub and the House - the stumbling drunks.' But he does not miss the House of Commons, where he 'hated all the role-playing in the chamber between the parties when, afterwards, they would all be the best of friends in the bar and tea rooms. I couldn't live with that and couldn't wait to get back to Liverpool.'

Dave Nellist, who lost Coventry South East, now works in a solicitor's office advising people on welfare benefits, debt and the poll tax. He is still involved in local politics and hopes to regain his seat one day. 'I don't pine for the House, but there definitely is a point of view missing - a socialist view. I miss banging heads together.'

By-election victor at Langbaurgh, Ashok Kumar, who sat in Parliament for only a few months, is back with his old employer, British Steel. He thinks some of the Parliamentary procedures 'belong to a different time - all that strange jumping up and down to ask a question'. He added: 'Half a million people have lost their jobs this year. I lost my job, but I was able to to get another one - so I can't complain.'

Most ex-MPs are reluctant to rule out the possibility of a return to Parliament.

(Photographs omitted)