WHILE the nation is obsessing with all things gold, Tory MP Louise Mensch – who also happens to be a best-selling author, married to a wealthy rock band manager and founder of a website aimed at rivalling Twitter – has managed to grab the headlines.
In a move executed with the timing of a winning forward four-and-a-half somersault dive (see, we're all experts now), the 41-year-old has announced she is stepping down from her seat in Corby.
In her resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron – released publicly, of course – mother-of-three Mensch said she had been unable to "make the balancing act work for our family". The announcement has triggered reams of debate.
On one side are those who applaud her decision to put her children first. Another illustration, perhaps, of the struggle that women face when trying to balance career with family life, and a situation that will no doubt chime with many working mothers up and down the country: another depressing indicator of how politics and family life just don't mix.
Others are less impressed at her dropping her political career so readily – and proving once again that ambitious women can't actually "have it all". All the more disappointing when Mensch was held up as a star of Cameron's A-list, consisting of parliamentary candidates drawn from backgrounds outwith the usual Westminster sphere. Love her or loathe her, she arguably did provide a spark of much-needed interest in the world of politics.
But it is not like she is in a particularly normal situation. Last year she married Peter Mensch, manager of famous bands such as Metallica and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who is based in New York. She has juggled a long-distance relationship with her political commitments in the UK and looking after her three children from her first marriage. It all sounds exhausting, so who perhaps can blame her for being lured away by the Big Apple from the bright lights of Corby (in Northamptonshire, population 61,000 and famous for its large ex-pat Scottish population, incidentally).
Meanwhile Mensch's devotion to her husband seems more akin to one of her chick-lit novels than real life. He's probably earning big money and it might make sense for him to stay put. But when she talks gushingly in an interview about the fact her "palms still sweat with adrenaline" when he walks into a room and that she took his surname as she was "longing to brand myself with his name", the alarm bells start ringing. Mensch is also taking her three children to live on the other side of the Atlantic in order to "keep us together", as she wrote in her resignation letter.
Her sudden departure is highly unusual in the political world. Quitting just two years after being elected for the first time is virtually unheard of, and leaving mid-parliament is rare. The announcement has dropped her party right in it, triggering a by-election which could gift the marginal seat to Labour. The actions of someone determined to put her life outside politics above all else – or of someone who was just dabbling in the job? Or alternatively, maybe the frustration of a high-achiever at her failure to be fast-tracked to the top. "What do I have to do to get promoted?" she asked in one magazine interview last year.
There's no way of knowing the real motivation behind Mensch's decision to quit. If she is truly doing what is best for her and her family regardless of others' opinions, that can be admired – and, given that she once claimed going into politics was a "long-cherished dream", it's also sad. But if it's a case of playing the "putting the family first" card to mask the next calculated career move, Mensch is not doing anyone any favours, particularly those who are quietly getting on with making sacrifices to try to balance their career and home life.
A resignation letter which reads: "Dear Dave, I'm actually quite bored of being an MP now and have decided I would rather be off pursuing a more glamorous life in New York," doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Somehow I don't think Mensch's final chapter will be the one where she quietly retires from the limelight in Manhattan.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.