This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Would Be Comeback Kids: ex-MPs hoping to return in 2010

Bill Clinton was the original comeback kid.

The former president was first elected as Governor of Arkansas in 1978 but after a series of slip ups he lost the 1980 gubernatorial contest only to come back and win again two years later.

During the Democrat primaries in 1992 when it looked like the Clinton campaign was down and out, a memorable interview with Hillary on 60 Minutes earned him a second place victory in the New Hampshire primary. The “Comeback Kid” was back - and the rest, as they say, is history.

On this side of the Atlantic our most celebrated leader, Winston Churchill, lost two elections, was deselected once and represented five constituencies before he became Prime Minister.

And this year’s General Election in the UK looks like it could have a fair few retreads too (ex-MPs returning to the Commons). With the help of the Mandate Twitter (and thanks to everyone who responded) here is a list of the most eye-catching candidates from the ranks of ex-MPs who might just yet make a return to the green benches:

1) Stephen Twigg

Perhaps the most famous of the 1997 Labour intake, Stephen Twigg sensationally beat Michael Portillo in his Enfield Southgate seat and earned a place in political history. But after 8 years in Parliament and a brief spell as a Minister, Twigg lost the marginal seat in 2005 in a swing to the Tories of over 8%.

He is now standing in Liverpool West Derby after the incumbent Labour MP Bob Wareing was deselected. Politics in Liverpool dictates that nothing ever comes easy but a strong local campaign and Twigg's star quality mean he is likely to return to the Commons.

2) Jonathan Evans


Former Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnor until 1997, Minister in the Major Government and MEP for Wales for ten years, Jonathan Evans is standing in Cardiff North which is 20th on the Tory list of target seats.

The constituency is suburban, affluent and middle class and recently went Conservative at the Assembly level in 2007. The current MP is Julie Morgan (wife of First Minister Rhodri Morgan) but she is highly vulnerable to a challenge. ConservativeHome was cock-a-hoop when Mr Evans was selected claiming his brand of compassionate conservatism meant a win in Cardiff North could be a bridgehead back into Wales for the party.

3) Parmjit Singh Gill

An MP for only one year from 2004-5, Parmjit Singh Gill was the first ethnic minority MP for the Liberal Democrats and was elected to the House of Commons at the Leicester South by-election. However, he lost the General Election a year later and returned to Leicester where he is now a councillor. He will stand again this year.

Despite a Labour majority of only 3,717 Mr Singh Gill may struggle to get re-elected. The Labour victor in 2005 was Peter Soulsby, former leader of Leicester City Council, whose rebellious streak in Parliament and careful wooing of the Asian vote mean he is well liked by his constituents. The Lib Dems may decide to concentrate their resources elsewhere.

4) Sue Doughty

One seat the Liberal Democrats may focus on is Guildford where former Liberal Democrat MP Sue Doughty is standing against Anne Milton (Shadow Health Minister) who defeated her in 2005. Guildford is third on the list of Liberal Democrat target seats and it would take only a swing of 0.1% to overturn Anne Milton's 347 vote majority. Could Sue Doughty follow in her colleague Mike Hancock's footsteps? He lost his Portsmouth South seat in 1987 but regained it in 1997. Only time - and a good campaign - will tell.

5) Peter Duncan

The former MP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale constituency between 2001 and 2005, Mr Duncan unsuccessfully contested the new seat of Dumfries and Galloway in 2005 when boundary changes altered his constituency. He had been Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland between 2003 and 2005 but this wasn't enough to stop him losing to Labour's Russell Brown in a closely fought campaign.

This is likely to be a tough race but Mr Duncan's work as a local councillor and his grassroots support mean he might just overturn Russell Brown's majority. However, it is not certain and a lot will depend on how the Tories perform in Scotland overall.

6) Phil Sawford

Former Leader of Kettering Borough Council, Phil Sawford was MP for Kettering between 1997 and 2005. He won in 1997 after three recounts and managed to double his majority to 665 in 2001 but this wasn't enough to keep him in power. Four years later he lost to Philip Hollobone, who defeated him with a swing of 3.6 per cent. Hardly the most memorable of the 1997 intake, Phil Sawford nevertheless gained a reputation as a 'champion' of local issues and an inveterate 'left winger'. He is still a member of the 'Campaign Group'.

Kettering is a semi rural seat which is due to undergo significant expansion over the next decade, with new homes and major regeneration planned. It is unclear what affect this will eventually have on the constituency but recent boundary changes favour Labour. If the polls remain tight Phil Sawford might win but it is too soon to tell.

7) Ivan Henderson

"Still here, still working". Ivan Henderson's slogan for the forthcoming campaign in Clacton sums up this popular former MP. He was elected for Harwich in 1997 but lost to Tory right winger Douglas Carswell in the 2005 General Election. Since then, Ivan Henderson has remained involved in local politics but it will be a hard slog to win this seat back. Douglas Carswell's radical views go down well in the constituency - it was his motion of no confidence which removed Speaker Michael Martin.

However, the Tories won't simply be able to assume victory here. And if Labour forces the Conservatives to spread their resources thinly by concentrating on places like Clacton, it might enable Labour to hold onto other seats elsewhere.

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