Blow for Sunak as Tory MP general election exodus breaks 1997 record

Blow for Sunak as Tory MP general election exodus breaks 1997 record

The number of Tory MPs standing down at the general election has surpassed the previous Conservative Party record set in 1997 when Labour won by a landslide.

Sir David Evennett, the MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be seeking re-election on July 4, taking the total number of Tories quitting the House of Commons to 76.

The figure beats the previous record number of Tory MPs to stand down at an election, 1997, when Sir Tony Blair swept to power.

His announcement followed ‘Bionic MP’ Craig Mackinlay, who returned to parliament just days ago after fighting sepsis which claimed all his hands and feet also declaring on Friday he will not stand for reelection.

Former Cabinet minister Greg Clark also said he would be stepping down on Friday, and Sir John Redwood did the same.

The deepening exodus follows five Tory MPs declaring on Thursday, the first full day of the election campaign, that they were also stepping down, including two ministers Huw Merriman, a transport minister, and Jo Churchill, the employment minister.

Sir Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North and a former attorney general, James Grundy, who entered Parliament in 2019 by winning the “red wall” seat of Leigh, and Dame Eleanor Laing, a deputy speaker of the Commons, who represents Epping Forest, also said they would be stepping down on Thursday.

None of the MPs said Mr Sunak’s leadership was an issue in their standing down but the growing exodus of MPs will be a concern for Prime Minister as he seeks to overcome a 20 point deficit in many polls to keep the Tories in Government.

Prominent Tories who had already announced they are not standing for re-election, prior to the July 4 poll being called, include Former Prime Minister Theresa May, Dominic Raab, the former deputy prime minister, Ben Wallace, the former defence secretary, and former home secretary Sajid Javid.

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