Post-war record number of Tory MPs stepping down ahead of General Election

A post-war record number of Conservative MPs are standing down ahead of the General Election.

The total not seeking re-election on July 4 hit 75 on Friday, surpassing the previous record of 72 who quit prior to Sir Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide win for Labour.

It came after outgoing Tories Matt Hancock and Bob Stewart both had the party whip restored and former minister Sir John Redwood announced he is stepping down.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, who returned to the House of Commons this week after his sepsis ordeal, and former minister Greg Clark have now also confirmed they are not running.

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

Craig Mackinlay
Craig Mackinlay is standing down as the Conservative MP for South Thanet (PA)

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.

Sir John, who was first elected in Wokingham in 1987, wrote a blog post, reading: “I have decided not to put my name forward in the forthcoming election.

“I have other things I wish to do.

“It has been a privilege to represent Wokingham in nine parliaments.

“I have drawn many of my campaigns from the views I have heard on doorsteps and read in my email box.

“We have achieved good things together for our local community and the wider nation.

“I was pleased to help local Conservative council candidates win seats in the recent local elections.

Andrew Bridgen libel case
Former health secretary Matt Hancock is not standing for re-election on July 4 (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“We stopped the Lib Dems winning a majority despite their forecasts by highlighting the big damage they are doing to our roads, the money they waste, their neglect of public spaces and the way they are worsening our refuse service.”

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

Eurosceptic Sir John, 72, challenged prime minister John Major for the Tory leadership in 1995.

He received just 89 votes to Mr Major’s 219, later being defeated in a second bid for the leadership in 1997.

In 2019, he was re-elected as Wokingham MP with a majority of 7,383.

In a statement to GB News, Mr Mackinlay said: “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.

(PA Graphics)

“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.”

He returned to Parliament on Wednesday after being admitted to hospital on September 28 and put into a 16-day induced coma, with his wife told he had only a 5% chance of survival.

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.”

Mr Hancock had the Tory 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.

(PA Graphics)

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

They join a spate of high-profile Tories not featuring on the ballot paper, including former prime minister Theresa May and former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi.

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.