A total of 79 MPs are standing down at the election, with some big names among them.
What are some of the ways they could fill their time once they have left Westminster behind?
1. Appear on Strictly Come Dancing
Out of all the TV talent shows, this is the one that affords its participants the most amount of dignity – should they choose to exhibit it, of course. Someone like Glenda Jackson would be perfect for Strictly. The celebrity trappings, the whiff of the silver screen, the independent spirit, the cheeky humour – all would be ideal, and she’d also help tilt the show’s line-up away from younger, up-and-coming stars. If Glenda isn’t available, or would cost too much, someone like Hazel Blears would almost certainly prove amenable on both counts.
2. Present a ‘what’s-gone-wrong-with-Britain’ TV documentary
This is a favourite pastime of ex-MPs, pioneered by Michael Portillo in the wake of his bruising defeat in the 1997 election. It is meant to show us that the politician in question has found humility outside parliament and is seeking to make amends for criticism of being out-of-touch and remote. William Hague would be ideal for this, as he could make much of his upbringing in Rotherham and of going “back to his roots” in Yorkshire. The likes of Frank Dobson and Austin Mitchell would also fit the bill: gregarious, recognisable people with a dose of world-weariness about them but enough of the common touch to not look too ill-at-ease talking to ordinary people.
3. Write an ‘explosive’ memoir
There are plenty of MPs stepping down in 2015 who have intriguing stories to tell. Former health secretary Andrew Lansley is one; just how much pressure did he face within government when his attempt to shake-up the NHS in England brought even the most conservative of health unions out on strike? Tessa Jowell would have plenty to say, not just about serving as member of the cabinet throughout the Blair and Brown eras, but her work in helping win London the 2012 Olympics. Some of the other Labour big beasts leaving parliament at the election have already penned autobiographies, including David Blunkett, Jack Straw, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. But Brown has so far resisted writing anything specifically about his time as chancellor. That particular memoir would be absolutely fascinating.
4. Devote ‘more time to politics’
Tony Benn’s famous phrase was intended to acknowledge how so many mechanisms of power now lie outside of Westminster. Those MPs who have made a point of using the Commons to promote single-issue campaigns, such as Tim Yeo and Joan Ruddock, may take inspiration from Benn’s words and find newer, bolder ways to continue their activism away from parliament. An alternative would be to pursue a career in a different political institution. Both Lansley and Jowell have been linked with a return to public office, respectively a role at the UN and the mayor of London, while someone like David Willetts, with a reputation for being a political “thinker”, might be suited to chairing a major government task force or public inquiry.
5. Go on the road
Speaking tours and personal appearances have always been a cash cow for former MPs. People like Sir Peter Tapsell and Sir Menzies Campbell could expect to attract sizeable audiences. They are good raconteurs and wear the trappings of an elder statesman. Both would surely prove a hit on the literary festival circuit. Other long-serving departing members, such as Sir Tony Baldry, Peter Hain, Malcolm Bruce and Sir Alan Beith, would no doubt have interesting tales to tell, but might have to content themselves with arts centres and community halls, at least to begin with. But if you’re an ex-MP it’s surely better to have a low profile than no profile at all.