In a sign of despair within the Conservative Party, some MPs have had meetings with recruitment agencies in the expectation of losing their seats at the next general election, due by January 2025 but expected in late 2024. “It would be remiss not to plan for the future. Like our constituents, we have bills to pay,” a Tory MP said.
If, as expected, Labour forms the next government, knowledge about the Tories will be less valuable than it is now. One lobbying industry source said: “There’s definitely been an uptick in inquiries and discreet drinks requests. A lot of Conservative MPs’ staff and party staff know that it’s coming to an end, but that if they hang on until the very end no one will be hiring Tories. There’s already a stampede to hire people plugged in to the Labour Party because no one has really needed that capacity for over a decade.”
While most Conservative MPs are publicly supportive of Sunak and his efforts to stabilise the public finances with the Autumn Statement, they accept that the Prime Minister has not yet restored the party’s fortunes. As one put it: “We can read the polls.” They added that colleagues in marginal seats and safe ones were thinking about securing a new job for after the next general election.
The Commons Administration Select Committee is investigating the difficulties MPs face when they give up their seats at a general election or lose them after a hard-fought campaign. The report, which is expected to be published soon, will describe a lack of support for MPs when they leave the House of Commons and will suggest areas in which House authorities could be of more help. Sources suggest the report will be highly critical of the current system.
Chloe Smith, who was work and pensions secretary under Liz Truss, has said that she will retire from politics at the next general election, having held her Norwich North seat since 2009. Smith, 40, will be younger than most MPs when she quits the Commons. Conservative headquarters has asked MPs to clarify whether they want to stand in the next general election.