More UK Conservative lawmakers set to quit than before 1997 election defeat

By Thomson Reuters May 24, 2024 | 10:53 AM

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is suffering from a mass departure of lawmakers with the number of resignations surpassing the level the Conservative Party suffered before a landslide election 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.

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.

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

Only 12 Conservative members of parliament 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.

Defence minister Grant Shapps said earlier there was nothing “unusual” about the number of lawmakers leaving.

“You often get a lot standing down at election time,” he told Sky News. “You often get this illusion that there are more standing down from the governing side and, of course, the good reason for that is there are, by definition, more MPs on the governing side.”

Former business minister Greg Clark and veteran Brexit supporter John Redwood were among the Conservative lawmakers who announced they were standing down on Friday.

Some of the Conservative Party’s best-known politicians have announced they will stand down, including former prime minister Theresa May.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Hugh Lawson)