Party politics is a cut throat business. An incumbent Prime Minister cannot now expect to survive a bad election result and remain as leader of their party. This forces former Prime Ministers onto the back benches only for them to leave the political stage as soon as possible to pursue alternative careers away from Westminster.
Recently David Cameron has stated his aim to remain in the House of Commons after he stops being leader of the Conservatives and Prime Minister. In modern times this would much make him a rare exception but one who could benefit his own party and also the British parliament. A former Prime Minister or leader of his party would have considerably experience, insight and expertise that should only add to our Parliament.
The only former Prime Minister sitting in the Commons at the moment is Gordon Brown. For much of the last five years he has been conspicuous by his absence and we have rarely seen him on the national stage. We saw from his late intervention in the Scottish independence referendum debate that he still has a lot to give, and his absence from the Commons appears to have been a missed opportunity. Brown will stand down at this election and there is a perception that much of his final five years in conventional politics have been wasted.
It is hard for any Prime Minister to take a step back once they have been removed from their position. Going from being the leader to being one of the troops again is understandably difficult. Add to this the opportunity to go and fulfill other dreams and interests, and the perception from your own party that your continuing presence is a liability to them, the decision to step down is often an easy one. However, if more could be done to encourage them to stay in the Commons, this could benefit party, parliament and the country.
As elder statesmen, former Prime Minister’s hold rare positions. They have witnessed, experienced and been part of much and that means they still have much to give. David Cameron’s intentions are to be welcomed and we can but hope that in the future he will be one of many former Prime Ministers that opt to stay in Parliament and continue to contribute to public life in this way.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – Daily Mail