Vince Cable Warns Quitting MPs People Won't Be “Rushing To Offer” Them Big Jobs
Former Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said the cohort of MPs who do not plan to stand at the next election, including Matt Hancock and Dehenna Davison, should not assume they'll receive a lot of big job offers when they leave the Commons.
“There's nothing quite as ex as an ex-MP,” Cable, who retired from parliament in 2019, told PoliticsHome podcast The Rundown.
A host of high-profile MPs from across the political spectrum have recently confirmed they do not plan to stand again for their seats at the next general election, which must be called before the end of 2024.
While several MPs are stepping aside after many decades in parliament, such as Labour's Margaret Becket, Harriet Harman and Margaret Hodge, younger Conservatives including Chloe Smith, William Wragg, Dehenna Davison, Sajid Javid and Matt Hancock are bowing out at what could have been the start of long parliamentary careers.
Cable believed that for someone like Javid, the “best you could hope for probably is running a select committee for a few years” if Labour wins the next election, despite the fact that he has held multiple Cabinet roles.
“With the Tories it probably is a recognition that we're at one of those swings of the pendulum which is going to go against them,” the former Business Secretary in the coalition government explained.
Retiring politicians might once have expected to walk into well-paid jobs within business, but Cable – who lost his seat in 2015, but won it back two years before eventually retiring in 2019 – feels the cache of being a former Member of Parliament is not what it once was.
“If you’ve been chancellor of the exchequer or prime minister then there's a big earnings possibility, but as I discovered in 2015, you have to work to get interesting assignments because people write you off,” he said.
“They’re looking at the next generation, new thoughts, new ideas, new people, so I think people just shouldn't assume that they're going to have people rushing to offer them non executive directorships, or whatever it is that they're looking at.”
Cable, who earlier this year wrote the book How to be a Politician, said those who have been in Parliament for many years may find their skills and qualifications “obsolete” as they look to change career. He highlighted a recent survey showed many former MPs suffer from mental health issues as they struggle to adapt to life outside Westminster.
“They may have qualified in some interesting subjects at university 30 years ago, but it's no longer relevant and they find that there isn't a demand for them,” Cable added.
“There's this sense of rejection, under-employment, and it can have medical implications.”
But nonetheless, Cable does not regret his own decision to stand down as both leader of the Liberal Democrats, and an MP in 2019.
“If I’d hung around, I would have been in this very depressing parliament," he explained.
“Actually, I realised I made a good move in retrospect, I didn't know the pandemic was coming, but all the MPs I speak to have had a pretty miserable time.”
Cable also explained why, having suffered defeat in 2015, he sought a comeback at the 2017 general election – only to stand aside two years down the line.
“There’s a sort of streak of bloody mindedness, I just don't like being beaten,” he said.
“I was given a chance to stand [again], I didn't expect it, Theresa May had a rush of blood to the head when she was up in the Alps, and made a rather bad judgement that gave me the opportunity, I sort of jumped at it and I was very lucky.”
Cable also highlighted the importance of an MP timing their exit well, in order to ensure a "sort of dignified retirement” rather than being ingloriously voted out.
He cited Dennis Skinner, the firebrand former Labour MP, who was beaten at the last election having been the member for Bolsover since 1970.
“He was a great character for decades, but he just couldn't resist the temptation to hang on one more time, and of course lost in rather humiliating circumstances,” Cable said.
“I suspect at the back of the mind of people with more marginal seats, that's a factor.”
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