Tory MP announces he won’t be standing in Boris Johnson’s old Oxfordshire seat

A Conservative MP has announced he will not stand for re-election in Henley – the Oxfordshire seat it was said Boris Johnson may have eyed amid speculation he wants a safer seat.

John Howell – who has served as the Henley MP for 15 years after it was vacated Mr Johnson when he become London mayor – became the latest Tory to announce they will not run at the next general election.

In a letter to the South Oxfordshire Conservative Association on Tuesday, the 67-year-old said he would be retiring and wanted to “pursue other avenues”.

The former prime minister was last month re-selected as the Conservative candidate in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency for the general election expected in 2024.

But it followed speculation that he might seek out a safer seat in Oxfordshire ahead of the next general election expected next year, with Labour expected to run him close in west London.

Mr Johnson was spotted looking at schools and house-hunting in Oxfordshire, The Guardian reported in January – fuelling speculation the ex-PM was planning a big switch to give him a better chance of ousting Rishi Sunak in future.

But allies of the former prime minister have always rejected any suggestion he would seek a new or safer seat – or that he plans to do anything else than run for his current seat.

The Independent understands that local Tory officials in Uxbridge and South Ruislip were worried he could try to switch seats in the build-up to the general election, but hope his recent re-selection will keep him in west London.

Mr Johnson still faces the prospect of a by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the months ahead if the cross-party committee investigating whether he lied over Partygate recommends a suspension of at least 10 days and local voters push an recall petition.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said on Tuesday: “Boris Johnson is standing in Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the next general election and was recently reselected as the Conservative candidate there.”

While Mr Johnson holds a 7,000-vote majority in Uxbridge, his west London seat is seen as a target for Labour at the next Westminster poll. He held Henley seat between 2001 and 2008.

Mr Howell went on to win the seat in four general elections after taking over the safe Tory seat – gaining a 14,000 majority over the Liberal Democrats in 2019.

The MP, who leads the British delegation to the Council of Europe, said on Tuesday: “By the time of the end of the next parliament I will be coming up towards my mid-70s. I do not want to be in parliament until that time as I would like to pursue other avenues.”

The departing MP added: “I am a strong supporter of Rishi Sunak and I hope that the South Oxfordshire Conservative Association will continue to get behind him.”

A string of senior Tories and rising stars in the party have detailed their exit plans amid a polling slump, including ex-chancellor Sajid Javid and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee.

There are now 30 Tory MPs who have announced that they won’t be standing at the next election, with 12 Labour MPs also stepping down next year.

The Independent understands autumn 2024 is under strong consideration for the next election, as the government hopes to give voters as much time as possible to feel an economic recovery is under way.

Mr Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt are considering cutting the headline rate of income tax in the autumn statement – allowing it to come into force in April 2024, according to The Times.

The government is also reportedly considering hiking the living wage from £10.42 to £11.16 an hour in April 2024 in a bid to further brighten the mood before voters go to the polls.

Related Articles

Bir cavab yazın

Sizin e-poçt ünvanınız dərc edilməyəcəkdir. Gərəkli sahələr * ilə işarələnmişdir

Back to top button