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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Disenchanted Conservatives Fleeing House of Commons

LONDON -- It's nearly 7 p.m. In a House of Commons bar overlooking the River Thames, George Walden is waiting for bells to signal it's time to vote.


For Walden, 56, a former diplomat, Parliament's thrill is gone. "I'm not actually prepared to spend the next 20 years doing this sort of thing," he says. "How are we going to keep the health and social security budgets going? That is what government is about now -- and the answer is we can't, and then it gets rather nasty."


Walden is one of 52 legislators from the governing Conservative Party who have announced they will not be running again in the national elections that must be called within the next year. That is nearly one-sixth of the 326 seats held by the party.


Departing Conservatives complain that serving in the 1,000-year-old Commons -- once a prestigious sideline for landowners or lawyers -- is both more onerous and less glamorous.


From Monday to Friday, their job is to toe the party line in the 651-member Commons, Parliament's law-making body.


Weekends it is back home with the fax machine and the grumbling constituents. Often they want things the creaking welfare state will no longer deliver -- from a hip replacement on the free National Health Service to renovation of a public housing apartment.


Disenchantment is less a problem for the opposition Labour Party. Of the 273 Labour lawmakers, 28 say they will not run again, mostly because of age.


The motives behind the Conservative exodus are more complex.


Some are stepping down because of age. Some younger ones are looking for higher-paying jobs -- after a 26 percent raise they voted themselves July 10, members of Parliament have an annual salary of ?43,000 (about $66,500).


Even stronger forces could be the fear of personal defeat and distaste at the prospect of being in opposition after the Conservatives' 17 years in power.