Tory MPs head for exit as Sunak struggles in polls

Climate adviser Chris Skidmore is fifth MP in a week to say he will not stand in 2024

Rishi Sunak has overseen only a slight recovery in Conservative polling numbers. AP
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A climate adviser to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has become the latest Conservative MP to say he will not seek re-election.

Chris Skidmore is the fifth Tory MP in a matter of days to abandon ship amid dire polling and changes to the electoral map.

Mr Skidmore, who is leading a review of Britain’s green strategy, expects his seat to be abolished at the next election, expected in 2024.

He said he would focus his future career on clean energy after demanding from successive Tory leaders that they commit to net zero.

“It is clear to me that net zero and tackling climate change will be the greatest challenge, yet also the greatest opportunity, of our generation,” he said.

It came a day after fellow Conservative MPs Gary Streeter and Dehenna Davison announced they would not stand again.

Ms Davison’s departure dismayed some colleagues because, aged just 29, she was seen as a rising star of the party.

Her victory in working-class Bishop Auckland in 2019 was symbolic of Tory gains in former Labour heartlands that year.

But with Labour regularly posting huge leads in opinion polls, Tories in vulnerable seats face defeat in 2024.

“Tory MPs are going before they are sent packing by [the] electorate,” said one of their Labour opponents, Karl Turner.

Mr Streeter, an MP since 1992, meanwhile said the time had come to step down and “let a younger person take over”.

He said he had “great confidence that under Rishi Sunak’s leadership our country will recover strongly from recent challenges”.

Dehenna Davison is standing down after just one term on the Conservative benches. PA

The Tories slumped to as low as 14 per cent in the polls during Liz Truss’s chaotic seven weeks in power, their worst figure on record.

Although their position has improved slightly under Mr Sunak, Labour still holds regular leads of 20 per cent or more.

One Ipsos poll this week showed that although 47 per cent said they liked Mr Sunak personally, only 26 per cent said the same about his party.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper, speaking for the government on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, said he and Mr Sunak accepted that “things are not easy”.

But “I’m confident that the future will look brighter and that [people] will give us that confidence again when we ask them to place that trust in us at the next election,” Mr Harper said.

Chloe Smith, a short-lived work and pensions secretary under Ms Truss, announced on Wednesday that she too was leaving Parliament.

Ms Smith was the youngest MP in the House of Commons when she was elected aged 27 in 2010.

“In 2024, after 15 years of service, it will be the right time to step back, for me and my young family,” she said.

Another young MP, 34-year-old William Wragg, called time on his parliamentary career the same day.

Mr Wragg, who this year turned against both Boris Johnson and Ms Truss’s premierships, could have been vulnerable to a Liberal Democrat challenge.

Another three Tory MPs are expected to move to the House of Lords after the next election, ending their careers in frontline politics.

Conservative polling numbers slumped under the chaotic leadership of Liz Truss and Boris Johnson. Reuters

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, Scottish MP Alister Jack and Cop26 president Alok Sharma are all tipped for peerages.

Several other Labour and Conservative MPs announced their retirements earlier in the year or in 2021.

But the flurry of departures does nothing to strengthen Mr Sunak’s position as he tries to revive Conservative fortunes.

Party chiefs have reportedly set a December 5 deadline for MPs to declare their intentions, although there is little they could do to prevent further departures after that.

Local Tory activists will choose new candidates for the 632 seats in Great Britain after the redrawn map is finalised by the Boundary Commission.

The boundaries were last amended before the 2010 election, when scores of Labour MPs retired in the face of similarly dismal prospects.

Updated: November 27, 2022, 10:55 AM