The MP exodus: why are so many MPs standing down?


The Westminster exodus is well underway, as more than 60 MPs have now announced that they will not stand in the coming election.

Though departures on this scale are not unprecedented, the same can’t be said for the demographic pattern. According to The Spectator, 21 of the outgoing MPs have spent less than a decade in the Commons, while The Times reports that almost one in six female Tory MPs elected in 2017 have either already quit or will stand down at the 12th December election.

Almost one in six female Tory MPs have quit or will stand down for the election

Some would claim that these demographic trends are more than merely coincidental. Female MPs, including Nicky Morgan, have cited the impact of abuse on their families in their resignation letters, while Heidi Allen, who was recently accused of having “killed a baby” after having an abortion, has advised people considering careers in politics to “let this period of toxicity pass” first.

Teresa Pearce believes the abuse is worse for women because “there are people who hate MPs and there are people who hate women, and the Venn diagram between the two is quite large.”

In September, Boris Johnson was accused of fuelling abusive attacks after dismissing MP Paula Sheriff’s complaints about death threats as “humbug”. It has been suggested that his comment exacerbated insecurities across party lines.

“We are all entering the parliament much younger than before”

There is also speculation that many fresh-faced politicians are joining Parliament with the intention of serving for no more than 10 years, and that this is part of the explanation for the exodus. “We are all entering parliament much younger than before,” Labour MP Gloria de Piero said. “I always thought I wanted to do this for ten years.”

The environment in Parliament, described by government advisor and psychology professor Cary Cooper as “a pressure cooker for politicians”, is also likely to have contributed to the proliferation of ten-year MPs. An unnamed Tory MP recently told The Spectator that “ten years may well become the norm because it is now such an intense job.”

Due to Corbyn’s neutral stance on Brexit, many Labour MPs who are standing down support Brexit, or at least oppose a second referendum. At the same time, the trickle of Tory moderates is threatening to become a flood.

Image by Megalesius via Wikimedia Commons

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