The number of ministerial careers that end with claims of wanting to spend more time with the family is legion, and most are treated with due suspicion. But few people give up the back benches for that reason.
Which is why Matthew Taylor’s decision is both laudatory and instructive.
It raises in me an ongoing anger that people believe that Members of Parliament are a bunch of lazy bums who are living like barnacles off the public purse while providing no value at all.
To be fair, I have sympathy for those for whom this is an expression of irritation because they are obliged to pay for MPs whose job seems to be to meddle in people's private lives. I am a Liberal because I believe that Government has no business interfering in people’s private affairs. Indeed, a liberal society is based on the principle that individuals have a right to operate freely within their personal sphere, and that government’s only role is to regulate those areas where the individual sphere’s overlap. I suspect that the general dislike of politicians that has emerged in recent years has more to do with the invasiveness of policy than the nature of politics. If government left people alone but created a sound framework for interaction, we would have happier citizens and probably a happier polity.
Matthew’s decision is a lesson to us, however. As far as I know he was doing well. His 7,403 majority is not meagre and he has held some good party posts. But he’s tired and worn out by the 80 hour weeks. Having seen David Laws attending talks at the IEA before popping back for the 10pm vote, and having worked for Tony McNulty in his private office back in his ODPM days, I know that MPs of all parties work damned hard. They may not spend all day every day in The House, and they may often seem remote from their constituencies, but between the Committee Rooms, Portcullis House, surgeries and meetings, they lead a pretty busy life.
They spend their weekdays grilling ministers and their weekends canvassing, and in between they try to keep up with daily events and highlight the work they do for their constituency. And occasionally, if they’re old enough to have 50s household or if they’re very, very lucky, they manage to hold together a family too.
Good luck to ‘em. And good luck to Matthew if he puts the last before all the rest.