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MP Admits Fellow Tories Have "Checked Out"

Tory MP Philip Dunne backed Rishi Sunak in both leadership campaigns in 2022 (Alamy)

4 min read

Conservative MP Philip Dunne has said that some of his fellow MPs who are standing down at the next general election have already "checked out" – but insisted that he is not one of them.

Dunne is one of more than 100 MPs who have so far chosen to not stand again for their seats in the general election, which is due to be held by January. More than 72 of these MPs were elected as Conservatives in 2019. 

Although there has been speculation swirling around Westminster for months over whether an election could be held in spring or summer, the Prime Minister has repeatedly set out that he expects it to take place in the second half of the year – meaning MPs who have the end in sight could still have more than six months left in Parliament to represent their constituents.

However, some of them appear to already be actively preparing for their futures beyond polling day. PoliticsHome spoke to a Conservative MP last month who admitted that they had spent time earlier that day lining up job interviews, having already announced they will be standing down.

"There are a few MPs who have kind of checked out... I'm not one of those," Dunne said. 

"I think it's really important as MPs that they turn up to fulfill their responsibilities here. Just to give up is not what I'm doing, or what I think others should do."

However, Dunne said it was reasonable for some of his colleagues, particularly those who are significantly younger than him, to be thinking about how they can support themselves and their families going forwards – but that this had to be done while still carrying out their parliamentary duties.

"The reason I'm leaving is I would be 70 in the next Parliament," he said, in part explaining why he is happy to solely focus on completing his work in Parliament and his constituency of Ludlow in Shropshire.

"I'm just not confident that I will be as energetic as I should be as an MP when I'm in my 70s. But I completely understand that young people need to maintain the next stage of their careers, it's right for them to do that."

This week, Dunne will hold his final annual general meeting of his constituency association, where he will address local members for the last time after being MP for 19 years and the Tory candidate for two and a half years before that.

Describing it as a "slightly emotional time", Dunne said he hoped to make the meeting "reflective" to highlight the things he as achieved as a constituency MP, but also that he wanted to communicate what he thinks the candidate succeeding him should do for the area.

With a majority of 23,648 votes in the 2019 election, Ludlow is in the top 50 safest Conservative seats in the UK. But with no seat ever truly "safe", Dunne said he would use his final meeting as a "call to arms" to encourage volunteers to persist with campaigning. 

Dunne said that despite some MPs starting to take a back seat, at the end of any Parliament there was an "energy" to try and complete the delivery of work by backbenchers and government ministers. 

His primary aim for his constituency is to get "diggers in the ground" to commence construction of the NHS £312m commitment for an acute hospital rebuild in Shrewsbury and Telford.

As former Minister of State for Health between 2016 and 2018, Dunne said he secured the largest single allocation of capital into his county that there had ever been, which was £312m for the hospital transformation program for the two acute hospitals in the area.

"That money has yet to be fully signed off through interminable bureaucratic processes within the NHS... That project is literally due to start as soon as the contract is signed, so getting that delivered will transform the ability of the health system to deliver better outcomes for patients."

Dunne is also Chair of the influential Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) and sits on the Standards Committee, both of which have plenty of work to complete before summer recess and before a general election.

The EAC is holding a private meeting on Wednesday, to consider two reports to publish in the subsequent weeks, one on decarbonisation of the grid. 

"In general what I'm trying to achieve before the summer recess is to get as many of the reports and inquiries that we've been working on ready to go," he said, adding that they were also reviewing previous bodies of work, including on improving heat efficiency and cooling efficiency of buildings.

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