Further to my last post, chick lit writer Louise Mensch has announced that she was stepping down from office, provoking a by-election in a marginal constituency, which will hopefully lead to a labour win (one Tory down…. 212 more to go!). It struck a number of political commentators as a bit odd that she would choose to leave at this time. After all a cabinet reshuffle is due and many rumours suggested that she was going to be appointed a junior minster. As I believe I’ve commented before she is one of the few remotely honest Tory’s (or vaguely sane ones!). But why would someone leave parliament when on the cusp of becoming a minster?
Two reasons. Firstly, while conservatives will often claim that they are modern party that has no connection with corruption, snobbery or chauvinism of the past. The reality is a little different. The view is still taken by many conservatives (both in the UK and the US) that a woman’s career should take second place to her husbands. If one of the two needs to give up their job, its the wife not the husband (even if she’s an MP or a minster and he’s….manager of a band!) who needs to chain herself the kitchen sink, lie back and think of England, and get busy baking apple pies. (just to be clear I’m not saying this is my opinion, I’m merely pointing out that its still the view among many social conservatives).
The second reason is more Machiavellian. To be blunt, is now a good time to be made a Minster? The situation for the Tory’s is not good right now. As I’ve pointed out before, the country is in a double dip recession, borrowing costs are rising (making a mockery of the Tory austerity measures), the government is in the process of hopping from one crisis to another (often self inflicted ones), operation liberal shield is about too fail. In short the coalition government has either jumped the shark, or its about to do so. Consequently, Mrs Mensch would probably be aware that if she did become a minster, she’d be a risk of loosing her job in a few years time (or months!), indeed she might even suffer the humiliation of a Portillo moment come next election (marginal seat and all), ending her career.
So the thought must be going the heads of many Tory’s with ambitions of high office, that the last thing they want to do is pick up the label of former Tory Minster under David Cameron. No, the best thing for them to do, is stay well clear of the inevitable coming train wreck, stay on the back benches (or in some other job in Europe….or Mayor of London!)….or run off to the US and rake in the cash from the US conservative lecturing circuit (they love British Conservatives…notably Tony Blair…wait!….did I just say what I thought I did!).