Tory MPs 'bewildered' and set to stand down as Sunak calls election

Former minister Rory Stewart says Conservative some MPs have been left bewildered by Sunak's decision to call a July election.

Westminster, London, England.
Which MPs will step down at the next general election? (Stock image: Getty)

A "remarkable" number of Tory MPs are unlikely to stand for re-election in the forthcoming general election announced suddenly by Rishi Sunak on Wednesday, a former minister has said.

Speaking on the The Rest Is Politics podcast that he hosts with Alastair Campbell, former Conservative MP Rory Stewart said he expected a flurry of announcements from former colleagues saying they would step down.

His comments come after Rishi Sunak announced a general election will take place on 4 July, sending shockwaves through Westminster and his own party.

Stewart said he had received a number of texts and Whatsapps from former colleagues – including cabinet ministers as well as backbenchers – voicing their bewilderment at the prime minister's decision to call an election, and their plans to leave.

"I think very few of them will stay," he said. "Including some who haven't yet announced they're leaving will leave. Honestly the response from most of them is total bewilderment."

He cited one message he had received, that said: "I have literally no idea why he's doing it any more than I have any idea why he's standing in the rain with his musical background" - a reference to the fact D.Ream's Things Can Only Get Better, played to signify Labour's 1997 election victory, could be heard in the background as Sunak made his announcement.

Stewart said he had talked to "veteran MPs" who had served for 15-20 years who had put forward various hypotheses for why the PM had decided to call an election now, but said: "A very remarkable number are leaving and they're all totally thrown off balance and astonished."

One theory is that Sunak had been under pressure from many of his own MPs to call an election because they are "exhausted" and "don't want to be in parliament anymore", Stewart added.

2024 General Election key dates. (PA)
2024 General Election key dates. (PA)

Here are the MPs who have already announced they are standing down, according to the government website (as of 20 May, 2024):

Douglas Ross, Moray

Sir Charles Walker, Broxbourne

Mike Penning, Hemel Hempstead

Adam Afriyie, Windsor

Andrew Percy, Brigg and Goole

Chloe Smith, Nortwich North

William Wragg, Hazel Grove

Dehenna Davison, Bishop Auckland

Sir Gary Streeter, South West Devon

Sajid Javid, Bromsgrove

Mark Pawsey, Rugby

George Eustice, Camborne and Redruth

Edward Timpson, Eddisbury

Jo Gideon, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Stephen McPartland

Sir Paul Beresford, Mole Valley

Robin Walker, Worcester

Sir Graham Brady, Altrincham an Sale West

Pauline Latham, Mid Derbyshire

Gordon Henderson, Sittingbourne an Sheppey

Craig Whittaker, Calder Valley

Nicola Richards, West Bromwich East

Henry Smith, Crawley

John Howell, Henley

Sir Robert Goodwill, Scarborough and Whitby

Jonathan Djanogly, Huntingdon

Dr Matthew Offord, Hendon

Alister Jack, Dumfries and Galloway

Richard Bacon, South Norfolk

Dominic Raab, Esher and Walton

Philip Dunne, Ludlow

Andy Carter, Warrington South

Royston Smith, Southampton, Itchen

Will Quince, Colchester

Sir William Cash, Stone

Lucy Allan, Telford

Steve Brine, Winchester

Sir Greg Knight, East Yorkshire

Chris Clarkson, Heywood and Middleton

Ben Wallace, Wyre and Preston North

Trudy Harrison, Copeland

Stuart Andrew, Pudsey

Stephen Hammond, Wimbledon

David Jones, Clwyd West

Sir Alok Sharma, Reading West

Chris Grayling, Epsom and Ewell

Jamie Wallis, Bridgend

John Baron, Basildon and Billericay

Nick Gibb, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

Sir James Duddridge, Rochford and Southend East

Oliver Heald, North East Hertfordshire

Mike Freer, Finchley and Golders Green

Sir Robert Neill, Bromley and Chislehurst

Kwasi Kwartend, Spelthorne

Nickie Aiken, Cities of London and Westminster

Lisa Cameron, East Kilbridge, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

Tracey Courch, Chatham and Aylesford

Dr Kieran Mullan, Crewe and Nantwich

Paul Scully, Sutton and Cheam

Theresa May, Maidenhead

Brandon Lewis, Great Yarmouth

Jams Heappey, Wells

Robert Halfon, Harlow

Tim Loughton, East Worthing and Shoreham

Nadhim Zahawi, Stratford-on-Avon

Chris Heaton-Harris, Daventry

Huw Merriman, Bexhill & Battle

Jo Churchill, Bury St Edmunds

James Grundy, Leigh

Eleanor Laing, Epping Forest

Michael Ellis, Northampton North

Alex Cunningham, Stockton North

Dame Margaret Hodge, Barking

Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield

Harriet Harman, Camberwell and Peckham

Dr Alan Whitehead, Southampton Test

Ben Bradshaw, Exeter

Wayne David, Caerphilly

Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central

Dame Rosie Winterton, Doncaster Central

Margaret Beckett, Derby South

John Cruddas, Dagenham and Rainham

Colleen Fletcher, Coventry North East

Margaret Greenwood, Wirral West

George Howarth, Knosley

Karen Buck, Westminster North

Christina Rees, Neath

Ian Mearns, Gateshead

Dr Dan Poulter, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

Natalie Elphicke, Dover

Holly Lynch, Halifax

Kevan Jones, North Durham

Yvonne Fovargue, Makerfield

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 22: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes a statement as raining outside 10 Downing Street announcing UK general election will take place on 4 July in London, United Kingdom on May 22, 2024. (Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Conservative MPs are said to have been left bewildered by Rishi Sunak's announcement on Wednesday. (Getty)

Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion

Crispin Blunt, Reigate

Matt Hancock, West Suffolk

Julian Knight, Solihull

Conor McGinn, St Helens North

Bob Stewart, Beckenham

Nick Brown, Newcastle upon Tyne East

Mark Menzies, Fylde

Ian Blackford, Ross, Skye and Lochaber

Peter Grant, Glenrothes and Central Fife

Angela Crawley, Lanark and Hamilton East

Douglas Chapman, Dunfermline and West Fife

Stewart Hosie, Dundee East

Mhairi Black, Paisley and Renfrewshire South

John McNally, Falkirk

Philippa Whitford, Central Ayrshire

Patrick Grady, Glasgow North

Francie Molloy, Mid Ulster

Mickey Brady, Newry and Armagh

Hywel Williams, Arfon