Nicky Morgan has announced she is standing down as a Conservative MP at the next election. She isn’t the first to say she’s off, but what’s different about this resignation is that Morgan is a serving member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet. In her resignation letter, she cites the need to send more time with her family – and the toxic political environment:
‘But the clear impact on my family and the other sacrifices involved in, and the abuse for, doing the job of a modern MP can only be justified if, ultimately, Parliament does what it is supposed to do – represent those we serve in all areas of policy, respect votes cast by the electorate and make decisions in the overall national interest.’
Morgan is echoing what many MPs – particularly women – have privately concluded, which is that the current toxic political environment isn’t worth it when they don’t feel they can have as much impact as they’d like in their jobs. It’s rather more powerful when a Cabinet minister concludes this, as members of the executive are supposed to have more influence than their backbench colleagues. Many of those going from the Tory party are Remainers of one description or another, and will also have decided that perhaps there isn’t much room for their politics in their party anymore, so why not go off and have more of an impact in another line of work?
There are now 59 MPs who have so far announced they standing down at this election, despite the last one only being two years ago (where 31 decided to quit parliament). With every changing of the guard, some duffers go, but also many who are bright and capable (which is why they feel they can safely leave and do something else) and who could have given much more to parliament as their experience grew. Even those who don’t care that much for the kind of Toryism Morgan espoused should worry that so many MPs of all colours are deciding this game isn’t for them anymore, not least because those who replace them will increasingly have to be the sort of person who has such a thick skin that they don’t care about abuse at all. Which may not turn out to be particularly good for politics. Either way, we are set to have a very green new parliament by the end of this year.