Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

Leaving the House: Jane Kennedy on retiring as MP

Nearly 140 MPs are standing down at the next election, the largest number for more than 60 years.

In a regular series over the next few weeks, retiring MPs will be reflecting on their decision to say goodbye to Parliament, how they will spend their remaining days at Westminster before the election is called and what life holds for them in the future.

Jane Kennedy was first elected in 1992 and served as a minister under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

She announced last November she would be leaving Parliament in search of a "fresh challenge".


Jane Kennedy
Jane Kennedy was first elected to Parliament in 1992

I was glad to be offered the opportunity to write about leaving public life.

I always count the years before Parliament, when I lived my politics through my union NUPE and worked with union and Labour friends such as Jack Straw, Charles Clarke and Adam Ingram to destroy the influence of the Militant tendency during the 1980s, as part of my nearly 30 years in the public spotlight.

Time for me to do something else.

Walking through Childwall meadows near my home in Liverpool, the deep hoar frost has turned the tangled mass of grass and brambles into white latticework. From this vantage point I can see across the plain of Manchester to the Pennines, tinged pink with early winter sunshine and I know retiring from politics was the right thing for me.

It's Tuesday morning and I'm at home instead of London.

New responsibilities

I have never been happier than when in the company of a dog. For nearly 13 years I gave them up for ministerial responsibility.

Last June, when realisation dawned that government was no longer for me, I began my search.

Jack, a Belgian shepherd, joined us three months later and now, still young enough to think he can catch birds, he is also known as Gnasher.

I go back to Parliament and take my seat only when a constituency matter presents itself as needing to be raised, or for the meetings of the all-party group on science and technology in agriculture.

Any anxiety I had that my absence might weaken the government's ability to win votes dissipates as I can see that Tories and Lib Dem members are absent too.

My constituency took the news stoically and after thanks for my service immediately began the debate about who should replace me. Proper order. My only remaining public duty is to the volunteers that have worked so hard for my candidature over the last eighteen years.

They have chosen my successor and I have been deeply impressed with the new energy and life that she has breathed into tired party activists. The least I can do is work as hard as I can to secure her election.

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