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What Jeremy Browne's Retirement Tells Us About Life After Politics

16/10/2014 17:20 BST | Updated 16/12/2014 10:59 GMT

The former Home Office minister Jeremy Browne has announced he will step down at the General Election. Having served two terms as Member of Parliament for the marginal seat of Taunton Deane, he felt this is "generally long enough to do the same job". A lot of professionals would agree with that sentiment, but as we know the toil, ambition and determination that goes into taking your place on the green benches, is matched only by the privilege and for some the prestige that goes with serving in the legislature. So it is somewhat surprising his political career ends at the age of 45. Having fallen out of favour with the leadership, he was dumped as a minister in 2013, and has clearly taken a reality check in recognising he won't return to government in a future Coalition. His farewell gift for Nick Clegg will be the difficult circumstances the Liberal Democrats will find themselves in defending his 3,993 majority, without the benefit of incumbency that the party thrives on.

Browne has his own manifesto in the form of his book Race Plan, and he will secure lucrative work advising management consultancies and multi-national industries on the threats and opportunities arising from globalisation and emerging markets. He may feel his reach and the difference he is making will far outclass the work he would otherwise do as a backbench MP. The lucrative advisory roles he lands will take care of any financial worries he has, and he will be free of worries about constituents forensically analysing his IPSA entries, his class of train travel or his mobile phone expenses.

But Browne isn't alone in calling time so early. There is a group of retiring MPs who are former ministers with the best days of their political careers behind them. The summer reshuffle prompted Andrew Lansley, William Hague, David Willetts, Greg Barker and Mark Simmonds to announce their decision to stand down in May 2015. Their average age by the election will be 54 and, we know the likelihood is that they too will have lucrative roles lined up by the time they hand back their parliamentary pass, parking space and portcullis notepaper.

These retiring MPs will be inspired by the likes of Ruth Kelly and James Purnell before them. All stepped down while still relatively young, having recognised that political comebacks here are few and far between. But what the likes of Kelly and Purnell have also shown is there is life away from the public eye, the media spotlight and well beyond the ruthless world of politics.

There have been concerns about the trend that parliamentary careers - and I choose that word for a reason, in that for some people it is the next stage of a career that started working for an MP, party, or as a special adviser - for many MPs in the 2010 intake started in their late 20s and early 30s. But what the careers of the likes of Browne, Barker and Hague also tell us, is that starting younger may increasingly mean finishing sooner. As Browne put it "it is not my ambition to remain in Parliament until I retire", and you see that some MPs become institutionalised and fear for life outside parliament. Before you know it, they have served over 30 years, become disillusioned having lost their ambition, and are waiting for their pension to start. Hopefully that will become a thing of the past as MPs will come into Parliament, climb the pole, and escape while still young enough to do something different.

Politics, and a seat in Parliament, remains a magnet for some of the most ambitious young professionals in the country, and at Insight Public Affairs, we will be profiling several of the brightest and best in our forthcoming Ones to Watch PPC Guide ahead of the election. But being an MP is not always everything it's cracked up to be. The long hours and sitting times mean MPs have to juggle Westminster, constituency, and family life more than ever. Some have found that competition for promotion is tough after starting out on the backbenches. For others, the tighter expenses regime brings its own pressures. Others are recognising there is an opportunity to continue making a difference outside the Westminster bubble. Being elected to the green benches is no longer the job for life that it was once, and our retiring MPs will quickly realise there is life after politics.