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Tories tearful as election costs them their jobs

In the hours after the Prime Minister made the surprise announcement that a general election would be held on 4 July, members of Tory MPs’ staff could be seen around Parliament in tears at the news.

For many, it meant they were likely to find themselves unemployed in just six weeks. For others it’s a certainty.

While they remained supportive of both Rishi Sunak and their party, there was undeniable frustration among some that they could have had many more months working in Parliament to prepare for the coming election. There is a collective feeling that their remaining time had been prematurely cut short as a result.

Lucy*, a parliamentary assistant for a Conservative MP, admitted the job prospects of parliamentary staff were unlikely to have been high in Mr Sunak’s mind when he made the call. But that hasn’t made the wrench any easier.

“Of course, he hasn’t thought about us,” she told i. “It feels like we’re giving up. It’s not how I wanted to end my time in Parliament, but them’s the breaks.”

She said that her MP, who holds a marginal seat, had already offered to help her and her colleagues find jobs both inside and outside Parliament, and had been “very concerned” about what his potential defeat meant for them.

Groups of Tory staffers are said to have already begun sharing CV tips and relevant job adverts in the private sector via WhatsApp groups. One told i that they “wished they’d got out sooner” while another said they were “going through the five stages of grief” following the announcement.

Last Friday, on the final sitting day in the Commons before the campaign period kicked off, many Parliamentarians commented on the “end of school” feel, with people hugging and saying goodbyes to the people they may or may not get to work with again.

“It feels like the end of an era,” one commented while buying a bottle of prosecco for colleagues in the parliamentary bar.

The election kick-off was particularly worrying for the staff of MPs who had decided to stand down. They know they will be out of a job, but had not expected to have to look for a new one so soon.

One Tory MP, who is leaving the Commons, said: “I’m not worried for myself. I’m worried for my team. I’ve been making sure for ages that they have something to fall back on since I’m not coming back here.”

They also pointed out that, with the large number of Conservatives set to lose their seats, there would be little opportunity for remaining staff to find jobs with another MP in the same party.

“Every MP office has at least two or three staff, if not more. If dozens of us lose our seats, that could be hundreds of incredible people who don’t have anywhere to go. There’s only so many staff jobs to go around.”

It’s not just the lack of jobs there are other practical considerations. Mark*, a caseworker for an MP who has long confirmed they are standing down signed a new year-long tenancy agreement in October last year, expecting it to line up nicely with his plans to take some time off with his family after he left Parliament.

He said he was “livid” when he heard the election was announced, adding that he’d also chosen to cancel a holiday to allow him to campaign and it had “thrown up all my plans”.

On top of this, he isn’t eligible for any kind of redundancy payment since he has only worked for his current MP for 18 months. But he would have been likely to have got one if the election had been held in the autumn.

MP’s offices are set up like small businesses – the staff in both parliamentary and constituency offices are employed directly by their MP, with their pay handled by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

For MPs planning to stand in the election, both they and their staff will still receive their salaries up until and including polling day, and they can still claim expenses for anything related to their parliamentary work, such as rent for their constituency office, during that period.

If the MP wins their seat again, everything continues as normal, but if they lose they are given some funds to help them wrap up their affairs. Known as “winding-up costs”, these can be claimed for four months after the loss to cover things like removal costs and remaining bills as well as staffing redundancy payments.

Alongside this, ousted MPs can also get a “loss-of-office” payment equivalent to double the statutory redundancy pay they would get. For example, an MP who was first elected in 2019 and is aged under 40 would be entitled to a £5,600 payout, while over 40 would get £8,400.

Their staff, meanwhile, would only be entitled to the statutory amount – half of what the MP gets – and only if they had worked for their MP for over two years.

IPSA rules also mean that parliamentary staff cannot be paid to do campaigning as their salaries are funded by the taxpayer, meaning they now have to either take unpaid leave or give up their free time if they want to campaign.

But, while there’s sadness, and the prospect of unemployment, among many Conservative staffers, those working for Labour MPs have appeared much more lively as their party heads into the election with a 20-plus lead in the polls.

Several i spoke to commented on how the influx of new MPs was going to struggle to find enough experienced staff, with one saying that the job boards “were going to be overflowing” with vacancies among Labour’s new intake.

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