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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Labour's dilemma: which voters should it try to add to its 2017 coalition?

Should the party try to win over 2017 Conservatives, or people who didn't vote?

Momentum’s latest political advert is causing a splash on the left and the right.

One of the underreported trends of 2016 was that British political parties learnt how to make high-quality videos at low-cost, and Momentum have been right at the front of that trend.

This advert is no exception: an attack that captures and defines its target and hits it expertly. The big difference is that this video doesn't attack the Conservative Party – it attacks people who voted for the Conservative Party.

Although this is unusual in political advertising, it is fairly common in regular advertising. The reason why so many supermarket adverts tend to feature a feckless dad, an annoying clutch of children and a switched-on mother is that these companies believe that their target customer is not the feckless father or the children, but the mother.

The British electorate could, similarly, be thought of as a family. What happened at the last election is that Labour won votes of the mum, who flipped from Conservative to Labour, got two of the children to vote for the first time (but the third stayed home), but fell short because the dad, three of the grandparents, and an aunt backed the Conservatives. (The fourth, disgusted by the dementia tax, decided to stay at home.)

So the question for the party is how do they do better next time. Do they try to flip the votes of Dad and the grandparents? Or do they focus on turning out that third child?

What Momentum are doing in this video is reinforcing the opinions of the voters Labour got last time by mocking the comments they’ll hear round the dinner table when they go to visit their parents and grandparents. Their hope is that this gets that third child out and voting next time. For a bonus, perhaps that aunt will sympathise with the fact her nieces and nephews, working in the same job, in the same town, cannot hope to get on the housing ladder as she did and will switch her vote from Tory to Labour. 

(This is why, if, as Toby Young and Dan Hodges do, you see the video as “attacking Labour voters”, you haven’t quite got the target of the advert or who exactly voted Labour last time.)

That could be how messages like this work for Labour at the next election. But the risk is that Mum decides she quite likes Dad and switches back to the Conservatives – or  that the second child is turned off by the negativity. And don’t forget the lingering threat that now the dementia tax is dead and gone, all four grandparents will turn out for the Conservatives next time. 

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