Nearly 80 Tory MPs quitting ahead of General Election in post-war record exodus

Nearly 80 Conservative MPs have stepped down ahead of the General Election, a post-war record.

The total not seeking re-election on July 4 hit 77 on Friday, surpassing the previous record of 72 who quit prior to Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide win for Labour.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove became the one of the most high-profile Tories to announce he will not stand, saying it was time for a “new generation” to lead.

Former ministers Sir David Evennett, Greg Clark and Sir John Redwood, and Craig Mackinlay, who returned to the House of Commons this week after his sepsis ordeal, were also among those to confirm they are not running.

(PA Graphics)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a summer election surprised many in Westminster, who had been expecting an autumn poll.

The news has reportedly caused disquiet among some Tory MPs fearful of losing their jobs, and newspaper reports have suggested Cabinet ministers voiced concerns about the decision.

South Thanet MP Mr Mackinlay said his decision to step down came after “36 hours of intense soul searching”.

He wrote on Facebook: “Whilst my heart tells me to stand again, there being so much unfinished business across local regeneration and national issues which are important to me, my head knows this to be impossible at this time.

“It would be difficult to withstand the rigours of an all-out election campaign, a campaign that I’d always wish to lead from the front.

“Thereafter, upon being re-elected it would be difficult for me to sustain 70 to 80 hour working weeks which were the norm prior to my illness.”

MP Craig Mackinlay
Craig Mackinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet, said his decision to step down came after ’36 hours of intense soul searching’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Sir John, who was first elected in Wokingham in 1987, wrote a blog post, saying: “I have other things I wish to do.”

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey told supporters in Eastbourne that Sir John standing down is a sign his party will win in Wokingham.

Mr Clark said on social media: “After nearly 20 years as MP for Tunbridge Wells I will not be standing at the General Election.

“I am grateful and proud to have been able to speak and fight for the people of this beautiful and famous place. Standing is a 5 year commitment and it’s time to pass the baton on.”

Sir David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, said: “I believe the Conservative governments of the past 14 years have achieved a great deal for our country and people.”

However, he said it was “now the time” for a new candidate to take over.

Theresa May quits Parliament
Former prime minister Theresa May is also stepping down (Hannah McKay/PA)

Outgoing Tories Matt Hancock and Bob Stewart, who both had the party whip restored on Thursday evening, were among the other names not featuring on the ballot paper.

Mr Hancock had the whip removed in November 2022 after agreeing to appear on ITV reality programme I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!.

Mr Stewart relinquished the Conservative whip in November 2023 following his conviction for racially abusing an activist by telling him to “go back to Bahrain”.

His conviction was overturned on appeal in February.

Both Mr Hancock and Mr Stewart said they were stepping down prior to the General Election date being announced.

Former prime minister Theresa May and former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are also stepping down.

On Thursday, the first day of the election campaign, transport minister Huw Merriman and work and pensions minister Jo Churchill announced they are not seeking re-election.

Ms Churchill cited “family reasons” in her resignation letter, saying she had the “utmost respect for the difficult job” of the Prime Minister.

Bexhill and Battle MP Mr Merriman did not specify a reason for his departure but thanked his staff, local Conservative association and the Prime Minister, and paid tribute to his constituency.

Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Commons Speaker who was elected as an MP but relinquished party affiliation to take up her role, and former minister Sir Michael Ellis are also stepping down.