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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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MP Hopefuls Have The "Luxury" Of Not Knowing Everything

Labour leader Keir Starmer introduces newly elected MPs to parliament (Alamy)

3 min read

Parliamentary candidates hoping to become MPs at the next general election still have the “luxury” of being able to “admit that you don’t know everything about everything,” according to a Conservative MP who will be standing down.

Former minister Robin Walker, who has represented Worcester for more than a decade, told The House that he found it “useful” when he was a candidate to be able to say to the public that there are areas he was not an expert in or wanted to learn more about. 

“One of the great luxuries of being a PPC (prospective parliamentary candidate), as opposed to an MP, is you can admit that you don't know everything about everything and you're allowed to say that there are some subjects which aren't your specialist subject.I think, that becomes more difficult once you're elected," Walker explained. 

“I recommend any candidates to consider doing that at times." 

Walker said that the public “quite like" somebody who will admit to not being an expert and show they are "prepared to listen to other people's views on things [on] which they’re not an expert". 

“Certainly I found when I was a parliamentary candidate that was quite a useful thing to say: ‘these are the things that I'm particularly interested in changing, these are the things I'm interested in campaigning on, but actually on other things I'd like to learn from better informed colleagues or from experts before I before I reach an opinion’.”

Finding a speciality

Walker has been in the Commons since 2010, served as a minister under Theresa May and Boris Johnson, and has been the chair of the education select committee since November 2022. 

He believes that “realistically” all MPs in Parliament “do have to specialise” and it “pays dividends to find a few key campaigns and keep coming back to them.” This idea, he said, was one of the things that brought him to campaigning particularly on funding for schools. 

“Whilst campaigns like that can sometimes feel quite frustrating, I think I spent four years banging on about it before anything changed – actually, once you establish a reputation with colleagues as a go-to person on that issue, it does make a difference in the long run.” 

He believes that his experience was helpful during his time at the Department for Education, and “gave a certain amount of respect”.

Afterwards, when it came to running for the committee chairmanship, the “previous knowledge” helped in the job. 

“That experience and specialism… does make a difference, it's a long game,” he said. 

“It's not just a matter of turning up to the first debate and what brilliant contributions you make.” 

Walker announced in March last year that he will not be standing at the upcoming election. 

In the letter to his association chairman, he said that he had “thought long and hard about the decision” but had “come to the conclusion that my young family needs me to be more present”. 

He added: “I am confident that with the strong team you have in place locally and the excellent talent in the party, you will be able to find a strong candidate”.

He is one of 99 MPs who have announced their intention to stand down at the next election so far. 

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