Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Leaving the House: Ian Taylor MP

Nearly 140 MPs are standing down from Parliament 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.

Ian Taylor was first elected to Parliament in 1987 and served as a minister under John Major.

He announced in June he would be leaving Parliament, citing the declining influence of backbenchers, restrictions on the work MPs could do outside Parliament, changed expectations about the role of MPs and his party's views on Europe as among the reasons.

IAN TAYLOR, TORY MP FOR ESHER AND WALTON

Ian Taylor MP
Ian Taylor was first elected to Parliament in 1987

With Westminster gearing up for the looming general election I have mixed feelings looking back on my 23-year Parliamentary career.

I have been "active" politically since students politics of the 1960s - now those were the days!

Like Ken Clarke before me, I was chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students - in my case during the turbulent year of 1968.

So this election will cause me to have withdrawal symptoms.

But I do not regret my voluntary decision. There was a risk that staying on for another term would have made me a grumpy old man. That would have been a shame for me - and a bore for others.

Sadly, the cult of personality, the debasement of prime minister's questions and the trivialisation of politics in the media all leave me cold.

The last two weeks have been typical. With the mists of economic uncertainty swirling around us, still the newspapers were not sure whether to lead with the prime minister being an alleged bully or with the sexual antics of Chelsea footballers - several of whom are my constituents.

Time for the next generation to make what they can of parliamentary life.

For the most part, I have loved Parliament and political engagement. It has been exciting, especially when we were in government.

Yet during my time in the House, attitudes to MPs have changed dramatically. There is still overwhelmingly a view amongst colleagues that we are in politics not for what we can get but for what we can give. That is not how the wider community perceives it at present.

Independence of mind

Over the years, the executive have gained more control over Parliament. Despite worthy attempts at reforms now under discussion, I do not see this as changing significantly in practice under a Conservative government despite recent talk of encouraging "independent-minded" MPs.

As someone who has shown a reasonably independent streak, I know it is not career enhancing!

As it happens, I do not regret speaking out from time to time. Having "views" was a reason for entering Parliament.

Yet we can but imagine the whips tapping a new MP on the shoulder after this election, reminding him or her that the party's majority does not allow for breast-beating demonstrations of independent thought or action.

Politics is, like our world, constantly evolving. I sincerely hope that Westminster will again be a place that is admired and respected



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