Former Tory cabinet minister Sir Eric Pickles to quit as MP - but says his wife might ask him to stay

Joel Adams
Sir Eric Pickles is not standing in the general election - PA Archive/PA Images

Former Communities Secretary Sir Eric Pickles has announced he is to step down as an MP - but says his wife might ask him to stay at Westminster.

This morning he joked that although his decision not to contest the forthcoming election will allow him to spend more time with his wife Irene, that might not go down all that well at home.

“I don’t know how happy she’ll be about it,” he told The Telegraph light-heartedly, adding: “I’ve been married 40  years, it’s been a marriage largely based on neglect - she’s likely to petition me to change my mind, but there we are.”

Eric Pickles announces he is to stand down as an MP. Credit: Heathcliff O'Malley 

The former Communities and Local Government secretary said he had previously decided that this Parliament would be his last, and concluded two days after Mrs May’s shock announcement on Tuesday that he would not contest his Essex Brentwood and Ongar constituency.

With a majority of more than 21,000 the seat is among the safest ten per cent in the UK.  Sir Eric said that whoever inherited it would be “very lucky” but he would play no role in the selection of his successor.

He warned that his days as Conservative Party chairman had taught him the best strategy in such circumstances was for Central Office “to put up three good candidates and not care who wins.”

He warned efforts to influence the result by running weaker candidates against a preferred frontrunner often backfired with the poorer performers coming out ahead, but said “wild horses on bended knees” would not convince him to reveal which colleagues he might have in mind.

Sir Eric, 65, was educated in Keighley in his native Yorkshire, and served on Bradford Council before becoming an MP in 1992.

He served as Chairman of the conservative Party from January 2009 to May 2010, when he was made Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the coalition government led by David Cameron. He was replaced by Greg Clark in May 2015.

This morning he said: “I think it’s better to go while people are asking ‘why are you going?’, rather than when they’re saying ‘why the hell is he still there?’

“And at 65 you’ve got a chance to do something else.”

He will continue in his role as the UK’s special envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, a role he said he feels passionately about and which he foresees will keep him busy, especially in the area of the repatriation of Nazi-plundered valuables and works of art.

He predicted a “well-deserved majority” for the Prime Minister in the forthcoming election, but added: “If I were to offer some advice to my fellow Conservatives: take nothing for granted.”

RegisterLog incommenting policy

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes