Louise Mensch resigns as an MP

Conservative MP plans to move to New York to live with her husband.

To the surprise of most people, Louise Mensch has just announced that she is resigning as an MP with immediate effect. Mensch intends to move to New York to live with her husband, Metallica manager Peter Mensch, who is based in the city. She told her local paper, the Northamptonshire Telegraph:

I am completely devastated. It’s been unbelievably difficult to manage family life.

We have been trying to find a way forward with the Prime Minister’s office but I just can’t spend as much time with my children as I want to.

I love Corby and East Northamptonshire but my family has to come first.

When I took the post I was in a different position but sometimes life throws you a curve ball that you didn’t expect.

We are now going to be moving out to New York as a family.

Every family is different and another mother might feel she can manage things.

It’s been an honour to represent the people of Corby and East Northants and I will miss them.

As I said, Mensch's decision will come as a surprise to most people, but she had previously hinted that she would leave politics behind. In an interview with the New Statesman last October, she told Jon Bernstein:

I may well do something else. I'm not sure I make old bones in parliament. It's an amazing experience to have had but I can't see myself being Mother of the House.

Asked if she would fight the next election, she replied: 

I haven't made up my mind. It is an extremely difficult balancing act with three small children and a husband who lives in New York. I'm stretched multiple ways.

The Tories now face what is likely to be a challenging by-election in Corby on 15 November. At the last election, the party narrowly gained the seat from Labour with a majority of 1,951.

Louise Mensch, the Conservative MP for Corby, is resigning to move to New York. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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