I was interested to read in the East Anglian Daily Times that John Gummer has announced he will be standing again at the next election. Believe it or not, he's 70 this year, although he could pass for a man fifteen years younger. His neighbour, Sir Michael Lord, is the same age and is also standing again. This will no doubt produce a lot of harumphing from eager younger candidates who regard people like Gummer and Lord as the political equivalent of 'bedblockers'. However, people should not lose sight of the fact that it is important to have a number of 'wise old owls' within a parliamentary party, which will no doubt be dominated by under 40s. Surely they key issue is whether, at that age, an MP has something further to contribute beyong reminiscing about great political adventures of their past. Sir Peter Tapsell is a good example of an MP who is advanced in years but is listened to with great respect when he speaks in the Chamber.
Interestingly, the number of MPs over the age of 70 is on the increase, according the figures compiled by the House of Commons Library, but only 14 out of 646 MPs - a mere 2% - fall into that age group. But in the wider population, more than 20% are over the age of 70. Politicians get very hung up on ethnic minorities and women being fairly represented in Parliament, but when did you last hear anyone make the case for more MPs of pensionable age?
Graphic Hattip: House of Commons Library