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Media captionLaura Smith: “What do people expect me to do?”

There is often an assumption that former MPs are set for life after losing their seat, with many walking into consultancy jobs or similarly well-paid roles. While public sympathy may be low for those who fail to get re-elected, the reality of instant political redundancy rarely involves strolling into a high-flying position – it means a trip to the job centre.

Laura Smith, Crewe and Nantwich MP 2017 – 2019

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Image caption Laura Smith said she wasn’t ashamed of going to the job centre

Former teacher Laura Smith lost the Crewe and Nantwich seat in the December election after two years in the role. When she was photographed job-hunting, she posted it on social media, tweeting with the shrugging emoji: “What do people expect me to do?”

The ex-Labour politician told BBC 5 live: “I am not ashamed to be going to the job centre, it is about dealing with this misconception… that people who are members of parliament – even local councillors – are kind of sitting on a bank of reserves or will automatically have connections who will come and want to hire you.

“I am somebody from a working class background, I am like millions of other people looking for work and I haven’t really got the luxury to sit around for too long thinking about it, I need to get on with it.

“I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me – you know the risks about being voted out. I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t [been tough], I absolutely loved my job. I was never expecting to be elected in 2017 to represent my home, so I was gutted [to lose in 2019].

“We were obviously in it to win the seat and I feel desperately sorry, really, that I wasn’t able to persuade enough people to vote for me. That is the nature of politics.

“You get a period of time to wind up your constituency office, which is by the end of February, and then it is basically statutory redundancy.

“I would like to stay in politics in some form or another, but again, you have to look at your options. I need to keep a roof over my family’s head and we will see what happens.”

Karen Lee, Lincoln MP 2017-2019

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Image caption Karen Lee tweeted a reply in solidarity with Laura Smith

Ex-Labour politician Karen Lee replied to Ms Smith’s tweet, saying she too was at the job centre looking for work “like you and millions of others”. The former nurse was ousted at the general election from the Lincoln seat and has applied for six positions since then.

“The reality for MPs is absolutely different to the perception. I have seen people online saying we get a massive payout – I get a bit of redundancy pay but it is not massive and I haven’t got a job so I am living on it.

“It is not like I am taking a holiday to the Bahamas, it will pay the mortgage and gas bill. It should last until I get another job. I was in the job centre on Wednesday and the staff there were very kind, supportive and helpful.

“Going [there] shouldn’t be something that we dismiss. I think it is a positive that MPs reflect the people they did represent or still represent.

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“It was really disappointing and sad to lose my seat. But on the night I thought to myself a huge number people had come out during the campaign and helped me and gave it their all.

“Since the election I have been helping my team wind the Lincoln office down. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to go to Westminster and represent the city I am from.

“I lost my daughter Lynsey to breast cancer in 2011 when she was 35, and when you have had something like that, it puts these things into context. I still have my nursing registration and have put myself down for shifts at my local hospital but ultimately I would like to do something more strategic.

“I feel optimistic, looking for another job is quite exciting.”

Jo Platt, Leigh MP 2017- 2019

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Image caption Jo Platt said she is continuing to work on issues in Leigh

Jo Platt had worked in marketing then later became a local councillor. She was elected to represent Leigh for Labour in 2017 and was the first woman to do so, before losing to James Grundy in December.

“Historically we know MPs were very privileged people and came from privileged backgrounds… the actual number of working class MPs has risen quite sharply on both sides of the house.

“That demographic has changed within Westminster [but] I am not sure if perceptions match that. There’s this [idea] we all live in the castle, not in the constituency somewhere, and it is wrong.

“People come from ordinary backgrounds and when they stop being MP they go back to being or doing what they were before, or basically look for something else.

“I was a single parent when I entered Parliament. I was a councillor before I was an MP so since 2012 I’ve been serving politically in [some] way. To come out of that and think ‘what’s next?’ is a daunting prospect.

“All the work I have been doing locally, the groups I am involved with, that connection and that push doesn’t stop.

“For me that is what I am concentrating on and obviously, the issue of getting a job – yes it is there but there are still bits of work that I was doing while I was an MP and will carry on doing now.

“It is a transition.”

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