Strang ready to quit Commons at next election

EDINBURGH'S longest-serving MP is to stand down at the next general election.

Gavin Strang, who has represented Edinburgh East since 1970, said if he fought another election he would still be in the Commons when he was 70.

He told local party members of his decision yesterday. He said: "Had there been an election this year, I would have been a candidate. But I have been the MP for Edinburgh East for 37 years and I shall be 65 next year.

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"Now we know the next general election will not be held until 2009 or 2010 it means I would still be in the House of Commons when I was 70 so I have decided not to stand again."

Dr Strang served as a minister under three Labour Prime Ministers - Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Tony Blair.

But he was also ready to rebel when he thought it necessary, voting against the invasion of Iraq and the replacement of Trident.

He was first elected to the Commons at the age of 26 in the election which saw Ted Heath become Tory Prime Minister. After Labour won back power in 1974, Dr Strang served as a junior minister first at Energy and then at Agriculture.

He was an elected member of Labour's shadow cabinet for many years while the party was in opposition during the 1980s and 1990s. And when Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997, Dr Strang served as Transport Minister for 15 months before being axed in the first reshuffle. At the height of the Aids crisis in Edinburgh in the 1980s, he successfully introduced legislation at Westminster requiring health boards to publish statistics and provide certain care.

Since veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell retired from his Linlithgow seat in 2005, Dr Strang has been Scotland's longest serving MP. He said he had been thinking for a long time about when to stand down, but felt this was the right moment to make his plan clear.

He said: "It gives the constituency party time to select a new candidate and for that candidate to get him or herself known in the constituency. That's they key reason I decided to announce my decision now.

"It has been a great privilege to represent an Edinburgh constituency in the Commons."

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And he said his decision to retire was no reflection on the Government's current troubles.

He said: "All governments have difficult periods, but the Labour party has a great record in government. Unemployment is at a record low, living standards have risen every year, we have spent large amounts of extra money on health and education."