Conservative MP Theo Clarke loses reselection bid after returning from maternity leave

Conservative MP Theo Clarke has been deselected one week after returning from maternity leave.

The Stafford MP said she was "deeply disappointed" not to have been chosen as the party's candidate for the seat in the next general election.

Ms Clarke spoke on social media after a meeting on Friday of the Stafford Conservative Association.

The parliamentarian has faced criticism for taking six months leave, according to reports.

In a statement on Twitter, Ms Clarke said: "I am deeply disappointed not to have been adopted this evening as the Conservative candidate to fight the new Stafford constituency at the next General Election."

"Living at home in the new constituency and working here, I stood on a record of successfully bringing investment into Stafford such as millions for mental health services and crucial infrastructure."

A better place to live

Ms Clarke added that she "tirelessly campaigned" to get investment into the town and strived to make "Stafford an even greater, better place to live, work and raise a family".

"I have only returned from maternity leave this week and I have been very disappointed by the abuse that I have received since I announced I was having a baby," Ms Clarke continued in the tweet.

"The selection committee have made their decision and it is my full intention to go to the membership."

Last December, Ms Clarke revealed she had received "dozens of phone calls" from constituents who were angry at her for taking leave, according to BBC News.

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Ms Clarke, the niece of former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, was elected as MP for Stafford in 2019 with a majority of more than 14,000.

She contested the seat of Bristol East at the 2015 and 2017 general elections before her success in Stafford during Boris Johnson's landslide victory.

In 2020, Ms Clarke became a member of the Women and Equalities Committee.

During her first evidence session, she raised challenges for childcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The next general election is due to be held by the end of January 2025.

This will see some constituencies contested under new boundaries as part of an attempt to make voter numbers per MP more equal.

What are the rules on maternity leave?

Employees are eligible to a year's maternity leave under the 2010 Equality Act in the UK.

According to the website, statutory maternity leave is made up of ordinary maternity leave, which is the first 26 weeks and additional maternity leave, that is the last 26 weeks.

It is not mandatory to take the full 52 weeks, however the website says that two-weeks leave must be taken after the baby is born.

Employees that work in a factory must take four-weeks of leave.