It's no surprise that Louise Mensch won't be contesting the next general election for the Tories in Corby - I predicted as much only last month when I interviewed her to mark the first anniversary of the phone hacking saga.
It was obvious when we met at Westminster for that interview she was exhausted, relying on regular infusions of coffee to keep going, balancing running an MP's office in a marginal seat with Culture Committee work, plus trying as often as she could to pick her kids up from school.
In light of this it’s not entirely surprising that she's thrown in the towel halfway through the Parliament. Her correspondence with David Cameron published on Monday reveals a level of exhaustion and anguish which will (hopefully) silence her many social media enemies.
What’s also clear from the letters is that the PM has been trying to deal with an unmanageable situation for some time. They reveal that Mensch has been given time away from Parliament, more so than the whips allow most MPs, and Mensch’s absence from key votes – the lingo at Westminster calls it a “slip” – has been noted and seized upon in recent months.
Undoubtedly one of the most high-profile MPs currently in the Commons, Mensch hit the ground running, serving on the DCMS committee at a time when they were grilling the Murdochs and trying to get the truth out of News International figures over the phone hacking saga. She’s made some pretty attention-grabbing comments before, most obviously acknowledging she took class-A drugs in her twenties and they "messed with her brain".
But it is Mensch's use of Twitter which has given her a brand as a young gunslinger of an MP. Widely followed, often publicly deplored, her retweeting of some of the messages she received after defending Rupert Murdoch opened up a debate about social media trolls and the abuse women in politics often get.
Anoraks will recall that the novelist and former party-girl came into the Commons in 2010 as Louise Bagshawe, the name she still uses when publishing fiction. But last year she had a shotgun secret wedding ceremony in the United States with Peter Mensch, the manager of Metallica. He’s based in the States, she’s here, and obviously something had to give.
Cameron will have been loath to let Mensch leave Parliament because it would and now has triggered an inevitably bloody and frenzied by-election in Corby, one of the most marginal and socially divided seats in Britain. A true bellwether, the seat comprises the former steel town of Corby, surrounded by some of the most affluent, chocolate box villages to be found anywhere in England.
Corby as a town used to be a by-word for industrial decay and social breakdown, for many years one of the ASBO capitals of Britain. A decade ago it was not uncommon for ambulances attending scenes of violence to be attacked by youths. Unemployment was rampant, and its large population of ex-pat Scots who’d worked in steel felt dispossessed.
Since then things have improved markedly, Corby had a new station built on the Midland main line, connecting it with London and other Midlands towns. Prosperity rose and new industries came in to fill the void left by steel. It explains in part why the seat switched from Labour to the Tories at the last election, though the more likely explanation is that Labour voters simply didn’t vote for Gordon Brown, allowing the Tories to win based on their core vote in the surrounding countryside.
But Corby has always changed with the political wind, and Labour were lucky to hold on there in 2005. Both parties will pump huge amounts of blood and treasure into the coming by-election, probably held in November on the same day as those for Police and Crime Commissioners nationwide.
On the face of it Labour can win this by-election, and judging by the national opinion polls they absolutely must. But they’ll need to get the vote out in Corby town, and with recent by-election turnouts exceptionally low, and with a sense that Ed Miliband still has to seal the deal with working class Labour voters, victory is far from guaranteed.