UK: Theresa May joins Tory MPs quitting before election


LONDON: Former prime minister Theresa May announced on Friday she will stand down as an MP at the next election, adding to a growing list from the UK’s ruling Conservatives to abandon leader Rishi Sunak.

May, 67, is the most high-profile of scores of Tory lawmakers to say they will not seek re-election at this year’s nationwide vote, in which opinion polls predict a thumping defeat for their party.

The Conservatives have consistently trailed the main Labour opposition, led by Keir Starmer, since October 2022 and are widely seen as on course to be kicked out of power after 14 years.

May has represented the constituency of Maidenhead in southeast England since 1997 and served as prime minister between 2016 and 2019 — a tumultuous period in the UK when it attempted to negotiate its departure from the European Union.

Ex-UK PM says she remains ‘committed’ to supporting Sunak

“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve everyone in the Maidenhead constituency as the member of parliament for the last 27 years,” May told the local Maidenhead Advertiser newspaper.

She said causes close to her heart, including tackling modern slavery and human trafficking, had been “taking an increasing amount of my time”.

“Because of this, after much careful thought and consideration, I have realised that, looking ahead, I would no longer be able to do my job as an MP in the way I believe is right and my constituents deserve,” she said.

May said she remained “committed” to supporting Sunak and believed the Conservatives could win the election, the date of which is still unknown but is expected in the second half of the year.

A total of 64 Conservatives and former Conservatives have now announced they will not fight their seats — the largest number of Tories to retire from parliament since Labour’s landslide win under Tony Blair in 1997.

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said the numbers showed there was “no confidence” in the Conservative party’s prospects.

Treasury minister Gareth Davies MP denied this, telling Times Radio that lawmakers were standing down “on all sides of the house”.

Almost 100 of parliament’s 650 MPs have said they will not seek re-election.

Brexit woes

Political scientist Tim Bale, author of a book on the Conservative party’s rightward shift since Brexit, said many Tories will be jumping ship due to the prospect of being in opposition.

“And for a few of them, I suspect, driven, too, by distinctly mixed feelings about the radical right-wing populist direction their party seems to be taking nowadays,” he told AFP.

British media have reported that the Conservatives are struggling to field candidates and some of their MPs putting out leaflets failing to mention which party they represent.

A Conservative spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

May served as interior minister between 2010 and 2016 under then leader David Cameron.

But Cameron resigned immediately after Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23, 2016, and May took over as prime minister less than a month later.

She called a general election in 2017 to try to break the logjam over the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU but the vote resulted in a hung parliament.

Unable to get her deal through parliament, the Tories suffered a drubbing in European elections in May 2019, leading to her resignation.

While her time as prime minister was dominated by Brexit, Theresa May was also in charge during terror attacks in London and Manchester, and when fire ripped through the Grenfell Tower block in the UK capital, killing