Amber Rudd and David Lidington among MPs to quit before election
Amber Rudd and David Lidington, respectively the ex-home secretary and Theresa May’s former de facto deputy, have both announced they are among an increasing number of sitting MPs who will quit at the coming election.
The departure of Rudd, who quit the cabinet and gave up the Conservative whip in September over Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit, prompted a brutal and highly public spat with senior party figures.
Announcing her departure, Rudd said she hoped to rejoin the party ranks, but was brutally rebuffed by Mark Spencer, the chief whip. In response, Rudd tweeted that Johnson had last week asked her to stand in the election as a Tory.
The departure of Lidington was notably more low key. In a letter to his local newspaper the Bucks Herald, the Aylesbury MP wrote: “Politics imposes a heavy cost on family and private life. That is not a complaint: people who seek elected office do so voluntarily.
“But I have come to the conclusion that now is the right time for me to give a higher priority in terms of my time and energy, to Helen and my family who have given unstinting support to me during more than a quarter of a century in the House of Commons.”
Rudd, once tipped as a future Conservative leader, told the Evening Standard: “I’m not finished with politics, I’m just not standing at this election.” She later tweeted: “Moving on. Good luck to colleagues in forthcoming GE.”
Rudd told the Standard she had met Johnson to make amends with him. She said she planned to meet Spencer to formally seek a return: “I’m happy to leave the House of Commons as a Conservative MP.”
However, Spencer wrote to Rudd saying he was “not in a position to return the Conservative party whip to you”.
In surrendering the whip, Spencer said, Rudd was “clear that you did not support the approach of the prime minister and did not have confidence in him. You have failed to provide me with assurances that you will not change your mind once more”.
Having the party whip is “an honour, not a right, and as such it cannot be discarded or returned at will if it is to have any meaning”, Spencer wrote to Rudd, who has a majority of only 346 in her Hastings and Rye constituency.
In return, Rudd tweeted: “Funny thing really, as just last week the PM asked me to stand in the general election. Afraid the chief whip has been briefed by the wrong ‘No 10 sources’ this morning but nonetheless I respect the decision he had been asked to make.”
On Tuesday, 10 of 21 other Conservative MPs who were stripped of the whip for supporting a backbench-instigated bill seeking to block a no-deal Brexit were readmitted to the party.
More than 50 MPs have so far announced they will stand down at the election, already well above the 31 who did not stand again in 2017. These were both two-year parliaments.
More members have stood down before other elections, with 90 not standing again in 2015, and 149 in 2010.
Rudd told the Standard: “I spoke to the prime minister and had a good meeting with him a few days ago. I’m really confident of my position. I will be leaving the House of Commons on perfectly good terms with the prime minister and I want him to succeed.”
After she left the cabinet, Rudd condemned Johnson’s use of words such as “surrender” and “betrayal” over Brexit, warning it could incite violence against opponents.
Rudd became an MP in 2010 and climbed the junior ministerial ranks before replacing Theresa May as home secretary in 2016, when May entered Downing Street. However, she was forced to resign two years later after failing to properly account for her role in the Windrush scandal about the treatment of Caribbean Britons.
She returned to the cabinet as work and pensions secretary later the same year, but after Johnson replaced May she appeared increasingly uncomfortable with what she said was his pursuit of a no-deal Brexit.
Her decision takes the tally of MPs who have so far decided they will not re-contest their seats at the 12 December election to 50, a relatively high proportion of the Commons.