'Good to go out at the top' – MP Barrett to stand down
EDINBURGH West Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett is to quit at the next general election.
After eight years in the Commons he said he wanted a change and to spend more time in Edinburgh.
He was due to tell local party members of his decision at a special meeting this afternoon.
He said: "I'm now 55 and if I do the rest of this term and another one, I'm going to be 60. My health is good and I'm definitely not planning on retiring – but I would like to do something else."
Mr Barrett said it was the right time for himself and for the local party for him to move on.
He said: "The constituency is in fine fettle. I had a majority of 13,600 at the last general election, the second largest Lib Dem majority in the whole of the UK after Charles Kennedy – and I always think in politics it's good to go out at the top."
Mr Barrett has two grandchildren living in Edinburgh, one of whom is disabled, and he said he wanted to have more time for them.
But he pledged there would be no let-up in his efforts between now and the general election.
"I will be working flat out for the next year doing everything I have done for the last eight years," he said.
Mr Barrett emerged relatively unscathed from the expenses saga, though he asked the standards watchdog for an independent judgment after he was criticised for accepting an 8,000 windfall from a developer to move out of his London flat. He says he used the money to cover some of his parliamentary expenses.
He said the expenses scandal had left a cloud hanging over Westminster. "That has made MPs of all parties think 'Should I stand again or not?' It made me think as well, but it has not been the biggest factor or the overall influence," he said.
Mr Barrett was first elected MP for Edinburgh West in 2001, four years after serving as agent to Lib Dem colleague Donald Gorrie, when Mr Gorrie won the seat from the Tories. He was a member of the House of Commons' international development select committee for six years and has been party spokesman on international development, Scottish affairs and disabilities.
Five years ago, Mr Barrett and his wife Carol made a dramatic dash to Greece after their daughter Sarah gave birth prematurely to a baby girl weighing just over 2lb, who was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
"I would like to be around for Maria," said Mr Barrett. "And we now have another grandchild, Hope. Maria is going off in a wheelchair to school in September. If I did another term at Westminster her entire primary school career could have passed."
He said he had not yet decided what he would do after he stepped down, but did not rule out standing for the Scottish Parliament or even bidding to return to the city council, where he was a councillor for six years.
He said: "Before I was an MP or councillor, I ran quite a successful corporate communications business. I always enjoyed that, so there is the possibility I could go back and do that and create a few jobs."
Among those expected to bid to succeed Mr Barrett are city councillors Robert Aldridge and Paul Edie. Kevin Lang, Mr Barrett's former assistant, is now candidate for Edinburgh North & Leith.
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