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August 6, 2012 / ultrafox1963

The personal and political legacy of a short-lived Parliamentary career

Louise Mensch – Corby’s loss, New York’s gain?

If Louise Mensch thought she could bury bad news by timing her resignation from Parliament during the aftermath of an euphoric Olympics weekend, she was very much mistaken.

The decision by the novelist, elected as Tory MP for Corby in May 2010, has sent shockwaves through online media, where she had been particularly active before and during her time in the House of Commons.

In her resignation letter to prime minister David Cameron, Mensch, mother of three young children, cited family reasons as the explanation behind her departure. Her second husband, whom she married a year after her election to Parliament, is based in New York and manages rock band Metallica.

Labour deputy chairman Tom Watson, who served alongside Mensch on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, was among the first to pay tribute. Writing on Twitter, a much-employed means of dialogue between the pair, Watson hailed her as “a remarkable character” and urged her to “be all you can be”.

Significantly, though, few of her former colleagues on the Tory benches seemed prepared to offer thanks to Mensch, raising the possibility that her isolation within Parliamentary ranks may have been a factor in her decision to quit.

A feisty, articulate and telegenic performer, Mensch was inevitably heavily in demand in the studios and on the airwaves. Although, equally inevitably, she was frequently required to defend the indefensible, her eloquence and charisma ensured a celebrity status that few in her party could match, at least without the assistance of a well-placed old boys’ network.

Her passionate and vocal campaign against cyber-bullying (especially that of a misogynist nature) was a welcome contrast to the Darwinian instincts too often espoused by many so-called “libertarians” who infest the blogosphere and sections of the media.

It was hardly surprising that such sentiments provoked resentment in certain quarters. But when allegations surfaced in summer 2011 (as part of an attempted smear campaign) about her past involvement with drugs, Mensch earned respect across the political spectrum for her candid and open response.

Some commentators openly wondered whether she would be fast-tracked through ministerial ranks, perhaps to become a leading light in a second-term government. That prospect, always a remote possibility, has now been finally extinguished.

The consequences of Mensch’s departure will be felt way beyond her former constituency. Labour, with a candidate and campaign team already in place, will be confident of regaining a target marginal seat when the by-election takes place on 15 November.

A heavy loss by the Tories, already struggling in opinion polls, would raise further questions about Cameron’s faltering leadership. In addition, career women who may previously have hoped to follow Mensch’s path into Parliament can expect to face continued resistance from elements sceptical of moves to modernise and diversify the party.

Mensch is by no means the first politician to leave the Commons with ambitions and talents unfulfilled. But she will be a significant loss to her party, and the political arena in general will be less colourful in her absence.

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