MP Denis Murphy to stand down

MP Denis Murphy has announced that he is standing down from politics.

The Wansbeck Member, who has represented Morpeth for the last 12 years, revealed that he will not contest the next election in an open letter to constituents.

The announcement came on the day of his 61st birthday on Monday.

He said: "I have thought long and hard about it and I think it is just time for me to move on. I have been in the job for 12 years and I'm ready to do something else.

"It was a lifelong goal of mine to become an MP and it has been a privilege to represent the people of Wansbeck."

Mr Murphy began his career as an apprentice electrician at Lynemouth Colliery and he worked underground for 30 years, from 1964 to 1994.

He was on strike in 1972, 1974 and 1984, and he was a lay officer for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from 1972 until he entered Parliament in 1997.

He followed family tradition into politics as his father John was a full time NUM official and a local councillor, likewise his namesake, his Uncle Denis.

Before entering Parliament, Mr Murphy served on Wansbeck District Council and was leader for four years.

His achievements in the House of Commons include securing investment for local businesses and backing national initiatives, such as the minimum wage.

But his most notable success was leading a campaign to bring in more severe penalties for death by dangerous driving following the tragic death of six-year-old Rebecca Sawyer, who was killed by a joyrider in Ashington in 2003.

"I was fortunate that the Criminal Justice Bill was coming into the House of Commons and after a lot of campaigning I got clauses put into that Bill. It was a significant change in the law and I'm very proud of that," he said.

Mr Murphy said several factors are behind his decision to quit politics, and he admitted that while not a major consideration, the row over MPs' expenses has taken its toll.

"It's not the expenses scandal itself, but some of the things that have come out as a result," he said.

"It is the sort of press attack on decent Members of Parliament who have done nothing wrong, who only followed the rules the employer set out.

"Some of my colleagues have done things that have been very silly and that should never have happened, but the majority haven't done that. The whole thing has been awful.

"I don't want to say my decision is down to the expenses issue because it is not. It is a combination of very many things, of which the expenses issue is only one.

"It is part and parcel of a political picture that I have examined very carefully and I have decided that I want to move on and do something else."

He added: "There is never a good time to make an important decision like this, but it's time to give somebody else the opportunity to represent the good people of Wansbeck, which it has been my privilege to do.

"It has been a very satisfactory job and we have always gone the extra mile for constituents.

"I'm sure I will miss it, but when you move on you have to look forward, not back."

Mr Murphy will continue to represent the constituency until the next election. He has not decided his next course, but may work in the voluntary sector.