++ David Heath announces he will stand down as an MP in 2015

Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome David Heath, who earlier this week lost his rural affairs ministerial job, will stand down at the next election:


Elected in 1997 by just 130 votes, David has been re-elected a further three times with increasing majorities – by 2010 it had grown to 1,817. However, there’s no doubt that his decision to retire will make the scrap to hold this seat against the Conservatives even tighter in 2015.

Update: Saturday AM

The Frome Standard reports David telling a constituency meeting last night:

I am sad to leave a job that I hugely enjoyed, and where I think I was making a difference, but it was very clear that there was a need for other people to have opportunities in Government too.

By the time of the next election I will be 61 years old, and I will have represented Frome and Somerset for 30 years. This is not a recent decision. I promised my wife at the last election that I would not stand again, and I intend to keep that promise.

Paddy Ashdown said:

David has been a formidable voice for Somerset in Parliament and an outstanding constituency MP for Somerton and Frome. His voice in Parliament will be much missed locally, but knowing him, I am sure he will go on making a major contribution to both local and national politics.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Like rats leaving a sinking ship.

  • Christian Moon 11th Oct '13 - 9:39pm

    Very sorry to be losing my former boss from the Parliamentary party, but obviously respect his decision.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Oct '13 - 10:03pm

    Dave. People get older and decide to retire. It’s what people do.


  • Well, that is absolutely stunning. I didn’t see it coming at all.

    There was something inevitable about the announcements from Malcolm Bruce and Menzies Campbell; both are (as Tony Greaves says) getting older. But I would have imagined that Heath had another term left in him – at 59 he’s not positively ancient, he increased his majority last time round, and has served as a minister in the current government. The best chance of us retaining Somerton & Frome would be with the current incumbent.

    Obviously I respect his decision and it would appear this has actually been planned for some time so it’s far from a reaction to any recent developments. However, it is always sad to see our capable and experienced parliamentarians stepping down – and especially those brave enough to to conform to the liberal stereotype by sporting facial hair!

  • Let’s hope that the Local Party in Somerton & Frome pick another genuine grounded fighter like David – someone like Vicki Slade who has been selected to replace Annette Brooke in Dorset, rather than some cloned Great George Street ‘suit’.


  • Simon Bamonte 11th Oct '13 - 11:33pm

    @Tony Greaves:
    People get older and decide to retire. It’s what people do.

    With all due respect, most of us could only dream of being able to retire at the age of 59.

  • People get to chose how long they wish to carry out any role and if David Heath feels he cannot commit to the lifestyle and working pattern of being an MP (which let’s face it is not too great for their wider family) until 2020 then he has made the right choice. He has given a significant amount of public service and it is therefore unfair to refer to him as a rat, even if the ship may be leaking somewhat.

  • Sadie Smith 12th Oct '13 - 1:47pm

    Very sorry David Heath is standing down at the next election.
    For family reasons he may well be right, but he will be sorely missed.

  • Another seat gone at the General. It is going to be a massacre, and nobody at the top seems to care. Will we reach double figures, it will be a struggle.

  • Peter Watson 12th Oct '13 - 4:06pm

    @Dave “Like rats leaving a sinking ship.”
    Too harsh.
    But to all those who have responded to the tone of Dave’s comment, perhaps we should also consider the message.
    It feels to me that a disproportionate number of Lib Dem MPs have announced an intention to step down. Old age is certainly not an issue for Sarah Teather.
    Does anybody know how the proportion of Lib Dem MPs who are leaving in 18 months compares with the other parties?

  • Peter Watson 12th Oct '13 - 4:10pm

    Another thought about the number of departing MPs.
    If we are losing a high proportion of MPs, does it indicate a parliamentary Lib Dem party of old middle-class white men that does not reflect society or the sort of party we want to be?

  • Andy Boddington 12th Oct '13 - 6:17pm

    I have cleaned up this thread of unacceptable comments. This means that one person will have their comments pre-moderated in the future. But a number of people joined in personal slanging matches. A number of other unacceptable comments failed to get through our moderation software.

    This is not a forum to insult each other. Or to drift off track onto other topics.

    It is a place to consider what David Heath has achieved and what the issues are now he has stood down.

    Our comments guidelines are here.

  • David Evans 12th Oct '13 - 7:07pm

    @Peter Watson
    “If we are losing a high proportion of MPs, does it indicate a parliamentary Lib Dem party of old middle-class white men that does not reflect society or the sort of party we want to be?” is an interesting question, but implies the wrong problem. Liberals aren’t a reflection of society, but a reflection of how most people wish society should be. It isn’t an age or sex thing, but an attitude of mind. The one big plus most of the old stagers have is that they were Lib Dems and Liberals working their way up through the system long before it was anything like a job and much more a calling. Sadly a few too many who came along in the last 10 years or so are not like that.

    Sadly, if people want us to be more like current society and not where those guys and gals came from, they probably don’t really understand why many liberals want to change society.

  • Peter Chivall 14th Oct '13 - 3:07pm

    I had the greatest admiration for David when I watched him as Deputy Leader of the House in the early years of the coalition swatting the ‘buzzing insects’ behind him as adroitly as he did those facing him. Those who only noticed him when he had to make the hard decisions on the badger cull seem to me to be to be those who only follow the crowd – in pre-industrial village life they themselves would have been the badger-baiters.
    Having spoken to him twice in the last year, I am convinced that he knew the badger cull would be a flop, and that the only solution was vaccination – which meant DEFRA would have to move to get a licence from the EU for the effective vaccines in use on the Continent, something I fear Tory Europhobes would not do for ideological reasons.
    Also in David’s remit during his brief time at DEFRA was the the Review of the Environment Agency and Natural England, where his role was crucial in protecting the independent existence of these crucial Agencies, albeit, like all else in this Government, with reduced funding. He was still believed to be fighting further moves to privatise the Forestry Commission up to the time of the Glasgow Conference.

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