The last few weeks have seen unprecedented scrutiny of our Members of Parliament which has been entirely justified and has resulted in the necessary termination of a number of long Parliamentary careers. In the last two weeks alone we have seen six Conservative MPs all with over 25 years service each announce their retirements.
This is on top of several of the Party's most senior MPs such as Michael Howard, David Curry and Ann Widdecombe already announcing the end of their careers in the Commons at the next election. Indeed, there was speculation in the Sunday Times that we could now see up to 55 Conservative MPs (nearly 30% of the parliamentary party) standing down in the aftermath of the expenses saga. It appears likely that a large percentage of those 55 would be MPs in their 50s and 60s who have served for many years and in many cases with great honour and probity.
Let me make it clear that it is not this article's purpose to support those who have abused the system and the public's trust: where it becomes obvious that an MP's conduct has made their position untenable with their constituents, natural events must be left to take their course and resignations and deselections are inevitable.
However what is concerning is the potential for long-standing MPs who have not been directly implicated in the expenses scandal deciding that now is the time to end their parliamentary careers due to an element of guilt by association. With a General Election only a year away at the most, it appears that one of the only cards left for an increasingly desperate Gordon Brown to play is the argument that the Conservative Party does not have the experience to deal with the economic crisis and other upheavals. The welcome return of Kenneth Clarke to the front bench to some degree counters this line of attack, however the fact remains that only Clarke and William Hague among the current Shadow Cabinet have Cabinet experience.