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.

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Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.