Matt Hancock announces he is standing down as Conservative MP at next election

Matt Hancock announces he is standing down as Conservative MP at next election

Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday he will not stand as a Tory MP at the next General Election.

After sparking controversy going on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!, the former Health Secretary made clear he was set to end his career as a Tory MP.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, he said: “I am writing to tell you that I do not intend to stand for the Conservatives at the next General Election.”

He added: “I am very grateful for my conversation with the Chief Whip last week, in which he made clear he would restore the whip in due course, but that is now not necessary.”

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Mr Hancock was suspended from the Tory parliamentary party after flying out to go on the TV reality show.

Tweeting his letter, the former Cabinet minister said: “I look forward to exploring new ways to communicate with people of all ages and from all backgrounds.”

In his letter to the PM, Mr Hancock, 44, said it had been a “huge honour” serving as MP for West Suffolk over the past 12 years.

He said: “I am very proud of what we achieved, including the establishment of three Free Schools, dualling of the A11, supporting the horseracing industry, and expanding Newmarket Hospital. I will of course continue to represent all my constituents between now and the next election.

Matt Hancock faced a huge backlash after deciding to join the reality show I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV)
Matt Hancock faced a huge backlash after deciding to join the reality show I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV)

Mr Hancock continued: “I am incredibly proud of what we achieved in my nine years in Government: the massive expansion of Apprenticeships, the introduction of Traineeships, support for small and growing businesses, the digitisation of public services and starting to establish rules for the digital economy, restoring the nation’s finances, support for the NHS with record numbers of doctors and nurses, and of course the response to the pandemic: the first vaccine in the world, and a shorter lockdown, fewer jobs lost, and lower mortality than comparable countries.”

He urged the Tory party to “reconnect with the public we serve”, adding: “There was a time when I thought the only way to influence the public debate was in Parliament, but I’ve realised there’s far more to it than that.

“I have increasingly come to believe that for a healthy democracy we must find new ways to reach people - especially those who are disengaged with politics. The revival of modern conservatism over the next decade will I suspect take place as much outside Parliament as in it.

“For my part, I want to do things differently. I have discovered a whole new world of possibilities which I am excited to explore - new ways for me to communicate with people of all ages and from all backgrounds. I look forward to championing the issues that are dear to my heart, including better support for dyslexic children who get a raw deal from the education system.”

The i newspaper reported on Wednesday that Mr Hancock’s decision comes after his local constituency chairman wrote to the Conservative Chief Whip Simon Hart that the MP is “not fit to represent this constituency”.

West Suffolk Tory councillor Ian Houlder told the PA news agency that Mr Hancock had been “up the creek without a paddle”.

But fellow councillor Lance Stanbury, who acknowledged it was “inevitable” that the MP would have to stand down, accused West Suffolk Conservatives’ president Terry Wood of acting without authority in sending the letter to the chief whip.

Mr Stanbury said: “I’m a member of the executive of the West Suffolk association and no-one has approached any executive council members for their opinion.

“I also believe that this letter has not been produced with the agreement of the senior officers of the party and therefore I believe Mr Wood has no authority to send such a letter.”

A political ally of Mr Hancock called the letter “irrelevant” and said that Mr Hancock “had already decided not to stand again when it came to light”.

The decision to quit means that Mr Hancock joins other high-profile Conservative MPs, including former Cabinet ministers Sajid Javid and Chloe Smith, in stepping down at the next election.

Mr Hancock came a surprise third in the ITV series after enduring several bushtucker trials.

He resigned for breaking social distancing guidance by kissing and embracing an aide in his office.

His appearance on the show was controversial and his decision prompted criticism from Mr Sunak and other top Tories, as well as mockery from some fellow MPs.

The recent publication of his Pandemic Diaries has also offered fresh insights into the workings of Government as the Covid-19 virus hit the UK in 2020.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting was among those quick to react to Mr Hancock’s impending departure from Parliament.

“He’s not a celebrity! Get him out of here!” he tweeted.

In his TikTok video, Mr Hancock said: “I’ve increasingly come to the view that it’s so important to engage with people about politics, about how our country is run, not just through Parliament, but also through new and innovative ways and I look forward to doing more of that.”

Mr Hancock’s political fate had been up in the air since his entry into the jungle, with the former minister likely to have faced a battle in his local West Suffolk constituency if he had wished to stand again as a Tory MP.

He had represented the safe Conservative seat since 2010.