Headhunters have been offering up former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab for jobs in the City of London as a number of Tory MPs are looking beyond the horizon of the general election expected next year.
More than 70 sitting MPs have already announced they will stand down at the end of the current parliament. With the opposition Labour party about 18 points ahead of the ruling Conservatives in the polls, the biggest cohort comes from the Tories, with 43 of their MPs so far stating they will leave parliament, according to research by the Institute for Government think-tank.
Raab is one of several former cabinet ministers on the list, along with former chancellor Sajid Javid, former defence secretary Ben Wallace and former environment secretary George Eustice.
Many more Tory parliamentarians will find themselves out of a job if Labour makes the big gains indicated by current opinion polls. Some pundits are expecting the biggest exodus of MPs since Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.
So far only 14 Labour MPs are stepping down ahead of the election, according to the IfG. They include Dame Margaret Beckett and Dame Margaret Hodge.
While some former MPs struggle to adjust to life in the private sector those with previous experience in the commercial world can prosper.
Javid, former chancellor and health secretary who was an investment banker at Deutsche Bank before entering Parliament, has already secured a role working for Centricus, a London-based finance group.
Meanwhile Eustice, who held several ministerial roles from 2013 to 2021, has already set up a company to advise businesses on farming technology and the water sector. Whitehall’s watchdog, the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba) has approved Eustice’s new firm but ruled that he must seek government advice whenever he takes on a new client.
Boris Johnson has earned millions of pounds from speeches since he quit as prime minister last summer.
One former Tory cabinet minister advised MPs facing unemployment to bide their time in finding the right new job.
“It’s best not to rush into it, but it can be difficult because having an empty diary can feel a bit scary,” the ex-minister said. “MPs have transferable skills — you have analytical skills, you understand how government and the public sector work.”
He added many Conservative MPs who lost their seats in Tony Blair’s Labour landslide of 1997 “found it very tough”. “Private sector employers can be a bit sceptical of people who have spent a long time in politics, especially if you are on the “wrong side” and the other lot are in power,” he said.
Raab — who was forced to quit as deputy prime minister over bullying claims, which he furiously denied — confirmed that he had started what he called “preliminary conversations” about what he might do after stepping down as an MP, but did not elaborate.
His name has been put forward by a recruitment consultancy called Kea, which describes itself a “boutique search firm operating exclusively in the alternative investment space in Europe”.
Raab’s curriculum vitae, shared with the Financial Times, emphasises his experience as “an international lawyer who trained in the City” at Linklaters. It mentions his six cabinet posts and that he was the “first ever deputy prime minister to two prime ministers”.
Earlier this year, he became a speaker-for-hire with Chartwell Speakers, which boasts on its website of his “extensive executive experience, particularly in international affairs, national security, geopolitical risk and the Indo-Pacific”.
Some private equity executives questioned how transferable Raab’s experience would be, adding that his employment prospects wouldn’t be helped by the fact the Conservatives are likely to lose the next election.
Sir Nick Harvey, former Liberal Democrat MP who was a minister in the coalition government, said: “The market out there is extremely tough. The expenses scandal and the continued deterioration of esteem in which the political class is held has made it a lot more difficult.
“Maybe 20 or 30 years ago it was faintly prestigious to have an ex-MP on the board but I don’t think that’s the case any more.”
He warned that former MPs who lose office just as another party takes power can find it especially hard. “If the Tories get wellied at the next election, what good is an ex-Tory MP as a door-opener? The reality is, they are not,” he said.
One MP who has announced that he will stand down at the next election said he believed having a strong CV from before entering politics is just as important as whatever was achieved in Westminster, as it “shows you can work in a different context”.
The post-political careers of David Cameron and George Osborne, previously prime minister and chancellor demonstrate both the opportunities and pitfalls for former politicians entering business.
Osborne built up a portfolio career including editor of the Evening Standard newspaper and adviser at US investment manager BlackRock where he earned £650,000 a year for just four days’ work a month. Since then he has dropped these roles to become a partner at Robey Warshaw, a boutique investment banking firm.
Cameron tried unsuccessfully to launch a UK-China investment fund which never got off the ground. He was paid a salary in excess of $1mn a year for his advisory role at Greensill Capital, a factoring company, and cashed out several million more from share options before the group collapsed.
But he became embroiled in the biggest lobbying scandal for a generation when the FT revealed that he had been privately urging former colleagues to change the rules around a Covid-19 loan scheme to benefit his new employer.