UK Conservative politicians to quit in record numbers

Staff WritersReuters
More than 70 members of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's party are quitting before the election. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconMore than 70 members of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's party are quitting before the election. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a mass departure of lawmakers with the number of resignations surpassing the level the Conservative Party suffered before a landslide defeat in the 1997 election.

Sunak, in power since 2022, this week called a national election for July 4, but his party is far behind in the opinion polls after a period of high inflation, low economic growth and a steady stream of political scandals.

The number of Conservative members of parliament (MPs) who will not be standing at the next election reached 76 on Friday, more than the 72 in the run up to the 1997 election, according to the House of Commons Library.

They are among at least 120 MPs of all parties who are standing down.

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Late on Friday, Michael Gove, a veteran Conservative who has held several government roles and was a leading voice in the push for Britain to leave the European Union, said he was also standing down. "There comes a moment when you know that it is time to leave. That a new generation should lead," he said in a letter.

Conservative members of parliament said so many colleagues were leaving because it was unlikely the party would win the election and many had grown tired of the infighting and polarisation in parliament.

Opposition parties claimed many were standing down rather than be humiliated by losing their seat at the election.

All the opinion polls predict Sunak will lose the election with his Conservatives trailing the opposition Labour Party by about 20 percentage points.

Many fear the Conservatives could be in opposition for two terms, which could be as long as a decade, and beset by further infighting for the first.

Only 12 Conservative MPs said they would stand down in the run up to 2017 election, while 32 lawmakers stood down before the 2019 election, according to the House of Commons Library.

Some of the Conservative Party's best-known politicians have already said they will stand down, including former prime minister Theresa May, ex-deputy prime minister Dominic Raab and the former health minister during the COVID pandemic, Matt Hancock.

Craig Mackinlay - the Conservative MP whose hands and feet were amputated following a life-threatening episode of sepsis and only returned to the House of Commons this week - is also to stand down.

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