Stephen Dorrell MP will stand down after 35 years. Photo: YouTube screengrab
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Tory MP and former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell to stand down after 35 years

The MP for Charnwood Stephen Dorell has announced that he will stand down as an MP at the general election, after accepting a role with accountancy firm KPMG as a health policy consultant.

The Tory MP for Charnwood and former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell has announced that he will stand down as an MP next May. He has been an MP since 1979, so will have served 35 years in parliament by the general election. He will take a job as a health policy consultant with KPMG, a bit accountancy and consultancy firm.

Dorrell stood down from his position as Health Select Committee chair in June, saying he wanted to approach the healthcare debate from a "less overtly political position". He had chaired the committee since 2010, and was respected among MPs as an authentic scrutinising voice, and someone who knew the health brief very well.

I heard from an MP close to Dorrell at the time that this "less overtly political position" was "code for helping to shape policy". And indeed there were rumours in Westminster that Dorrell was gearing up for being made Health Secretary in the next government reshuffle. After all, he had already served in this position under John Major. However, it turns out he's now taking his desire for influence over health policy out of parliament altogether.

PoliticsHome quotes his resignation letter, in which he refers to his decision as a "bitter sweet moment":

Although I have been a strong supporter of the Coalition, I strongly believe that a majority Conservative Government offers our country the best prospect of building on the achievements of the Coalition during this Parliament.

I interviewed him back in March last year, and asked him his assessment of where David Cameron and his party were, electorally and ideologically. His reply remains poignant:

It was said to me recently that the Conservative Party has spent the last few years fighting UKIP and losing to the Liberals. I think that’s a proposition that we’d do well to reflect on.

It's worth noting that Dorrell is another in a line of the high-profile modern-day equivalent of Tory "wets" (he describes himself as a “a liberal in the 19th-century sense of the word”) to be leaving come the election. Others include David Willetts, Ken Clarke and Greg Barker.


Update 14.01

Here is his resignation letter, reported in the Leicester Mercury:

I am writing to inform you that I have, with considerable regret, decided that my name should not go forward as the Conservative Party Candidate for the Charnwood constituency in next year’s General Election.

As you know, I was very grateful to the association for readopting me as its prospective candidate earlier this year and I do therefore regret that I have since changed my mind.

I have done so primarily because I have been offered the opportunity to work with KPMG in a senior role supporting their Health and Public Service consultancy practice both in the UK and overseas.

I have decided in consultation with my family that this role represents a great opportunity to carry forward the commitment to improve public services which has been a major part of my life in politics.

Unfortunately, I have also concluded that it is incompatible with seeking re-election to the House of Commons.

I shall of course continue to serve as the MP for Charnwood for the remainder of this Parliament, and I shall continue to campaign for the return of a majority Conservative Government, with David Cameron as Prime Minister, in the General Election.

Although I have been a strong supporter of the Coalition, I strongly believe that a majority Conservative Government offers our country the best prospect of building on the achievements of the Coalition during this Parliament.

This is a bitter sweet moment.

While I look forward to working with KPMG, it has been an enormous privilege to serve in Parliament since May 1979, first as the MP for Loughborough and more recently as the MP for Charnwood. I shall always remain deeply grateful for the support I have received; I have formed many friendships which are very important to me and which I shall hope to maintain long after leaving the House of Commons.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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In focusing on the famous few, we risk doing a disservice to all victims of child sexual abuse

There is a danger that we make it harder, not easier, for victims to come forward in future. 

Back in the 1970s when relations between journalists and police were somewhat different to today a simple ritual would be carried out around the country at various times throughout the week.

Reporters, eager for information for their regional newspaper, would take a trip to the local station and there would be met by a desk sergeant who would helpfully skim through details in the crime Incident Book.

Among the entries about petty thefts, burglaries and road accidents there would occasionally be a reference to an allegation of incest. And at this point the sergeant and journalist might well screw-up their faces, shake their heads and swiftly move on to the next log. The subject was basically taboo, seen as something ‘a bit mucky,’ not what was wanted in a family newspaper.

And that’s really the way things stayed until 1986 when ChildLine was set up by Dame Esther Rantzen in the wake of a BBC programme about child abuse. For the first time children felt able to speak out about being sexually assaulted by the very adults whose role in life was to protect them.

And for the first time the picture became clear about what incest really meant in many cases. It wasn’t simply a low level crime to be swept under the carpet in case it scratched people’s sensitivities. It frequently involved children being abused by members of their close family, repeatedly, over many years.

Slowly but surely as the years rolled on the NSPCC continued to press the message about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, while encouraging victims to come forward. During this time the corrosive effects of this most insidious crime have been painfully detailed by many of those whose lives have been derailed by it. And of course the details of the hundreds of opportunistic sexual assaults committed by Jimmy Savile have been indelibly branded onto the nation’s consciousness.

It’s been a long road - particularly for those who were raped or otherwise abused as children and are now well into their later years - to bring society around to accepting that this is not to be treated as a dark secret that we really don’t want to expose to daylight. Many of those who called our helpline during the early days of the Savile investigation had never told anyone about the traumatic events of their childhoods despite the fact they had reached retirement age.

So, having buried the taboo, we seem to be in danger of giving it the kiss of life with the way some cases of alleged abuse are now being perceived.

It’s quite right that all claims of sexual assault should be investigated, tested and, where there is a case, pursued through the judicial system. No one is above the law, whether a ‘celebrity’ or a lord.

But we seem to have lost a sense of perspective when it comes to these crimes with vast resources being allocated to a handful of cases while many thousands of reported incidents are virtually on hold.

The police should never have to apologise for investigating crimes and following leads. However, if allegations are false or cannot be substantiated they should say so. This would be a strength not a weakness.

It is, of course, difficult that in many of the high-profile cases of recent times the identities of those under investigation have not been officially released by the police but have come to light through other means. Yet we have to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it would be and once names are common knowledge the results of the investigations centring on them should be made public.

When it emerges that someone in the public eye is being investigated for non-recent child abuse it obviously stirs the interest of the media whose appetite can be insatiable. This puts pressure on the police who don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing offenders to slip through their hands.  And so there is a danger, as has been seen in recent cases, that officers lack confidence in declaring there is a lack of evidence or the allegations are not true. 

The disproportionate weight of media attention given to say, Sir Edward Heath, as opposed to the Bradford grooming gang sentenced this week, shows there is a danger the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. This threatens the painstaking work invested in ensuring the public and our institutions recognise child abuse as a very real danger. 

Whilst high profile cases have helped the cause there is now a real risk that the all-encompassing focus on them does both victims of abuse and those advocating on their behalf a fundamental disservice.

As the public watches high -profile cases collapsing amidst a media fanfare genuine convictions made across the country week in week out go virtually unannounced. If this trend continues they may start to believe that child sexual abuse isn’t the prolific problem we know it to be.

So, while detectives peer into the mists of time, searching for long lost clues, we have to face the unpalatable possibility that offences being committed today will in turn become historical investigations because there is not the manpower to deal with them right now.

So, now the Goddard Inquiry is in full swing, taking evidence about allegations of child sex crimes involving ‘well known people’ as well as institutional abuse, how do we ensure we don’t fail today’s victims?

If they start to think their stories are going to be diminished by the continuing furore over how some senior public figures have been treated by the police they will stay silent. Therefore we have to continue to encourage them to come forward, to give them the confidence of knowing they will be listened to.

If we don’t we will find ourselves back in those incestuous days where people conspired to say and do nothing to prevent child abuse.

Peter Wanless is Chief Executive of the NSPCC.