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Does it mean "Besides his time working for the government, he used his free time to...."?

"Davis, plucked from political wilderness by May to lead Britain's Brexit policy, has run in two previous leadership contests. A long-time eurosceptic, he is seen as an experienced political operator who used his time out of government to campaign against the erosion of civil liberties."

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-election-penpix-factbox-idUSKBN1900SW

1

In the UK, the government is made up of politicians from the political party (or sometimes parties) who are able to form a working majority in the House of Commons (the elected house in UK governance). They are the entity that sets the agenda for making any new laws, changing any old laws, setting out the budget, etc. - i.e. they "run the country".

If you are out of government, it means that you are not part of running the country. This most commonly means that you hold elected office (i.e. are an MP), but are not part of the ruling party. It also mean that you hold elected office, are part of the ruling party, but have not been given a ministerial position (i.e. you don't run, or help run, any office of the state. These MPs are known as "backbench MPs" or "backbenchers"). The least common usage (in my experience), and the one described in Tᴚoɯɐuo's answer, is for describing the time before they became an elected politician, or for describing a time when they took a break from politics.

I suspect that the quote is referring to the time that David Davis was a backbencher (note that you can be a backbencher for the opposition too).

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No, not his "free time" in the usual sense of "after hours and on the weekends".

While holding an elected or appointed political position, you're said to be "in government". When you're no longer holding an elected or appointed office, that time is time spent "out of government".

You can also have had a career "out of government" before holding an elected or appointed office. That means you were in business or healthcare or some other profession.

  • While your answer isn't wrong (so I haven't downvoted it), I don't think that it's what the phrase means in the quote. – SteveES Jun 9 '17 at 11:48
  • @SteveES: I thought Davis began his campaign against the erosion of civil liberties after resigning his position as MP. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 9 '17 at 12:13
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo He resigned as an MP (meaning he left his post in the shadow cabinet) and immediately re-ran (for the same party) to be re-elected to the same seat in the resulting by-election. He was re-elected and became a backbench MP. – SteveES Jun 9 '17 at 12:18
  • @SteveES: So wasn't he out of office while campaigning? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 9 '17 at 12:30
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    @SteveES: Well, it's good to know that a BrE speaker might be referring to "backbenchers" when using the phrase. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 9 '17 at 12:57

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