THE Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, has announced that she is standing down at the next General Election, after voting against the Prime Minister last night.
Her decision means that she will no longer be the Second Commissioner after the next election. She became the first woman to hold the post, which involves speaking for the Church of England in the House of Commons, in 2015.
Dame Caroline, who has been an MP for 22 years, rebelled against the Conservative party whip on Wednesday night when she voted in favour of delaying the Brexit deadline of 31 October to avoid the UK’s crashing out without a deal. The Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords.
While she has not been expelled by Mr Johnson, she joins two other Conservative MPs — the former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Sir Nicholas Soames — in stepping down.
She confirmed her retirement in a statement on Thursday lunchtime. “I am retiring as an MP at the next General Election. It has been a privilege to serve the constituency over the last 22 years, but the time has come for a new person to represent the interests of Meriden in a new Parliament which will be dominated by the consequences of Brexit.”
Dame Caroline told Bloomberg on Wednesday: “In my constituency there is a large council estate, and all the single mums there owe their jobs to the car factory. I can’t be pro no-deal when I’ve seen the predictions about what will happen to jobs. I can’t ignore it.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement on Thursday: “Dame Caroline Spelman has been an extraordinary public servant for many years. She has shown huge commitment to the vibrancy of the Church and wider civil society. In following Jesus’ example of servant leadership, she has shown integrity, wisdom and humility.
“In her role as Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline’s advice and support have been unfailing and invaluable, her political courage and determination outstanding. She will be deeply missed from her current role, and we will value her contributions until the next election.”
The Second Commissioner’s post is a Crown appointment, made on the advice of the Prime Minister. While the position is honorary and unpaid, it is included in the published list of government members. The next candidate will be decided at the next General Election. It is conventionally a senior backbencher who is a communicant Anglican.
Dame Caroline is a member of the organisation Christians in Parliament and has spoken publicly of the importance of her faith to her position in public life.
The First Church Estates Commissioner, Loretta Minghella, said: “During her tenure, she has been a tireless and energetic advocate for all that the Commissioners do, exercising her role in Parliament with energy and passion.
“In the past four years, she has continually raised the profile of the Church and its role in a modern society across a range of issues, including modern slavery, rural schools, and the persecution of Christians.
“She has worked closely and tirelessly with her fellow commissioners and trustees on questions and issues relating to the Church Commissioners land, property, and investments, promoting a high level of transparency whilst being an indefatigable supporter of our work and mission.
“She will be greatly missed by all of us at the Church Commissioners — her contribution as an advocate of the work of the Church and as a colleague has been outstanding.”