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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Veteran Tory Fears A "Desert Period" Awaits The Conservatives Post-Election

Conservative MP Tim Loughton pictured in 2022 (Alamy)

3 min read

Conservative MP Tim Loughton, who plans to stand down at the next election after 27 years in the Commons, predicts his party is about to enter a “desert period" if Labour enters government with as big a majority as expected.

Speaking to PoliticsHome about his recently announced departure, he said that there are “other challenges” that he wants to take on, but also attributed the decision to the difficult political landscape that could await the Conservative party if they lose the upcoming election. 

Drawing a comparison to the years immediately after the 1997 election when Tony Blair was elected as prime minister with a landslide Labour majority, he said the Tories achieved “absolutely nothing" during the first years of that period. 

“I think the next parliament, if Labour wins well, could be a fairly desert period for the Conservative backbenches and I think I've done all that before,” he said. Loughton was elected as the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham in 1997, and sat on the opposition benches for 13 years before the Conservatives returned to power in 2010. 

“It also gets to the stage where lots of familiar old problems are coming around again. [...] so it's difficult to summon enthusiasm to tackle something that you've tackled many years before," he added. “I think it's an appropriate time to hand over to somebody new.” 

Loughton has been the MP for his constituency since the seat was first created, and insists he is “certainly not retiring”, but also hopes to be able to “make up for lost time” with his family. 

“When I was minister for children I had three young children myself, and was certainly banging the drum for better family attachment and promoting families at a time when I wasn't probably the best,” he explained. 

Loughton was selected as a shadow minister three years after his arrival in Parliament, and served across a number of departments, including seven years as shadow minister for children. He then took up the job for two years in government in 2010 when David Cameron became prime minister. 

Loughton believes that the advantages for new MPs of starting in opposition are “considerable”, and will give them a chance to “get good experience” of how Parliament works and “how the Commons ticks before expecting to be on the front bench”. 

Reflecting on his own 13 years in opposition, he explained: “Everything comes back to the Chamber, where the debate happens, where legislation takes place, and then when we came to government in 2010, we'd had lots of practice of what it's like to be on the other side of the Chamber.” 

He believes that “perhaps too many people” arrive in Westminster “and then are just entirely focused on getting on to the front bench” without really understanding the Commons, “and also have had no experience or very little experience of being a shadow ahead of becoming the real thing as a minister". 

“That experience is invaluable,” he said, and warned new MPs that no matter how much of a “media hotshot” they are or “how good you are at running campaigns and your constituency,” at the end of the day careers can can succeed or fail on "just getting it completely wrong in the Chamber and being slaughtered by the opposition”.

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