IT’S A surprise farewell, then, to Louise Mensch. In her relatively brief parliamentary career, she has inspired admiration and loathing in unequal measures — more of the latter than the former, judging from Twitter.
I have been one of her many critics, most of whom object to her capacity for self-publicity by means of being so prolific on Twitter and giving such frequent media interviews. It can only be down to vanity, everyone thought.
My own criticisms were based less on her high profile than the view that any MP who devotes so much time to Twitter can’t be serving their constituents properly.
The timing of her decision to quit seems inconsiderate towards David Cameron — selfish even, given the shaky support he has within his party as well as in the country.
And yet — and yet — I can’t help but admire Mensch.
There are some criticisms that can justly be levelled at her — but others appear to be based on a dislike of her personality alone. Even when she was forced to apologise to Piers Morgan — a popular hate figure, whom Britain loves to abhor – for accusing him of boasting about phone-hacking, it was Morgan who received the sympathy.
Her undoubted intelligence and her dynamism distinguish her from a large swath of MPs who are all too dull to be worth any column inches in the newspapers. Maybe she wasn’t happy deep down as an MP – we don’t know. But not prepared to sit slowly putrefying as many of them do, growing cynical and self-satisfied, she has the independence of spirit to break away and do other things with her life.
Nor do I know how her constituents felt about her constant tweeting — but in view of her considerable energy, she probably found time to attend to their needs in between Culture select committee meetings and children’s dental appointments.
She is relatively young, attractive – no point in denying it — with a sharp mind, articulate, confident and capable of giving the appearance of both seriousness and humility. No wonder she draws so much attention. I can’t help wondering whether some of the criticism is born out of jealousy.
I, for one, would rather the Commons comprised people who show a lively interest in the outside world than people who regurgitate whatever their party — and civil servants — tell them to, giving knee-jerk reactions.
Mensch’s given reason for quitting — to be with her family — may or may not be a figleaf for new career plans, quite possibly in the media. Who knows, it may even be true: a serious family illness, for instance, or a threat of divorce could be behind her decision. We can’t necessarily expect to know such private stuff. And not many male MPs would cite their families as reasons for quitting without a scandal behind them, so credit to her there.
So I’m not going to join the ranks of those who attack Mensch out of jealousy. Schoolgirls could do much worse than aspire to that sort of strong role model. Yes, she might be a little on the self-publicising side but quite frankly I don’t blame her. It’s no skin off my nose, and nor is it off anyone else’s.