Former Tory MP Julian Knight to stand as Independent in election

A former Tory MP who lost the whip over sexual assault allegations has announced that he is standing as an Independent in the General Election.

Julian Knight was the Conservative MP for Solihull from 2015 to 2022, but was stripped of the party whip in December 2022 after it was revealed he was being investigated by police over a claim of serious sexual assault.

Both the Metropolitan Police and Essex Police dropped their probes into the politician, who has always denied the allegations.

Mr Knight, who sat as an Independent until Parliament dissolved ahead of the national vote, previously said he would not seek re-election.

On Friday, he changed course, saying he was running to “make a stand”, as “people should not lose their position because of a false allegation”.

His decision to run against the Tory candidate in the newly created Solihull West and Shirley seat causes a headache for Rishi Sunak.

But the Prime Minister defended the decision not to let Mr Knight stand under his party’s banner.

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a campaign visit to Rowlinson’s Farm in Macclesfield (Jonathan Brady/PA)

During a campaign visit to Bury, he told reporters: “Julian Knight faced serious allegations and we’ve withdrawn the whip and that’s why he’s not standing as a Conservative MP.

“And we’ll be selecting another candidate in Solihull.”

Mr Sunak, who also saw former Tory MP Mark Logan quit the party to back Labour, brushed off questions about people deserting his party, saying he was focused on “being out and about across the country”.

Mr Knight said on social media site X: “After discussions with family, conservative members and constituents I have decided to run as an Independent in the forthcoming election.

“Solihull deserves more than a whips appointed candidate who doesn’t get the issues.

“It’s important that having been forced out of the party after an entirely false allegation, which is now being investigated by police for perversion of the course of justice, it’s important to make a stand. People should not lose their position because of a false allegation.

“I will be campaigning on local issues – the election is over and Rishi has proven a disastrous campaigner so in a Parliament dominated by Labour, Solihull would be best served by an Independent.”