Lord Ashcroft will no longer sit in the House of Lords. Photo: Getty
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Pollster Lord Ashcroft retires from the House of Lords to pursue his other interests

The grand high Lord of polling will stop being a peer with immediate effect.

The star pollster of this election, Lord Ashcroft, is retiring from the House of Lords with immediate effect.

He has decided that his other pursuits are an obstacle to him devoting enough time to parliament. Yet retired peers are allowed to keep their title and use the House's facilities if they choose.

Here's the statement from his website:

Earlier this year Baroness D’Souza, the Lord Speaker, said that any Member of the House of Lords who can “no longer contribute meaningfully” should retire. She added that since the House has close to 800 members, “retirement at the right time should be seen as a condition of membership of the House of Lords – a duty as well as a right”.

I agree with the Speaker, and have concluded that my other activities do not permit me to devote the time that membership of the Lords properly requires.

Accordingly, I have today written to the Clerk of the Parliaments giving notice of my resignation from the House of Lords with immediate effect, pursuant to Section 1(1) of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014.

I will continue my involvement in politics through Lord Ashcroft Polls and my political publishing interests: Conservative Home, Biteback Publishing and Dods.

Westminster politicos will be relieved that he isn't stepping down from his best-loved pursuit: polling marginal seats. 

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.