Last night, my colleague and friend Richard Ottaway announced that he will be not be seeking re-election as the MP for Croydon South at the next Election, at which time he will have represented the area for an incredible 23 years.
Richard is unluckly that for most of this period the Conservative Party was in opposition or he would undoubtedly have held Ministerial office - he was being groomed for such a role in the Whips Office when we lost power in 1997. He did the night shift on the frontbench in opposition and is currently a highly respected Chairman of the key Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
He will also leave behind a real legacy as a local MP - the Coulsdon bypass, Purley Hospital and hopefully his Private Members Bill to properly regulate the scrap metal industry to deal with the problem of metal theft that has blighted his constituency and so many other parts of the country, which is currently before the House. He's made it clear that he will carrying on working at full speed right up until the next Election.
On a personal level, I will miss Richard and his lovely wife Nicky immensely. He has been hugely supportive of me, allowing resources from Croydon South to be deployed to help me win in Croydon Central. And I have been very lucky in my first few years in Parliament to have served with two such experienced fellow Croydon MPs. If I am re-elected at the next Election, it is going to be strange being the most experienced one (unless, that is, a former MP applies for Richard's seat - but I can't think of anyone that might be interested, can you?)