62nd Tory MP Calls It Quits

RMAS CCS 222-8

The armed forces minister, James Heappey, is to step down imminently from the role and will leave the House of Commons at the next general election, in yet another headache for Rishi Sunak.

Heappey, a former soldier who has carried out various roles in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) since 2019, tweeted a letter he had sent to his constituency association saying he had taken “the painful decision” to not stand again as an MP.

It is understood that Heappey, who has been armed forces minister since July 2022, will also leave this role in the next week or two.

While Heappey has been a vocal advocate for more defence spending, his departure from the MoD is not believed to be directly connected to policy differences, but due to personal circumstances.

He becomes the 62nd Conservative MP to say they will not stand in the next election, with Theresa May and the former cabinet minister Brandon Lewis announcing this in the past week.

Four former Conservatives who now sit as independents are also leaving, meaning that just over a fifth of the Tory MPs elected in 2019 are quitting.

Heappey’s constituency of Wells, in Somerset, which he has represented since 2015, is to disappear under boundary changes at the election. He had been adopted for the new seat of Wells and Mendip Hills, but said in his letter to the chair of the local Conservative association that he would now not stand.

“After much reflection, I am afraid I have taken the painful decision not to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming general election,” he wrote.

“As you know, a great deal has changed in my life over the last few years and I have concluded that now is the time to step away from politics, prioritise my family and pursue a different career.

“In the meantime I will support Rishi Sunak as our party leader and prime minister in government until such time as he wishes me to step down, and then from the backbenches.”

Heappey had a majority of just under 10,000 in the 2019 election, and the Liberal Democrats, who came second then, are likely to heavily target the new seat.

Viewed as a competent and well-respected part of the MoD team, he has supported the wider push in the department and among other Conservative MPs and ministers for an increase in spending on defence given increased threats from the likes of Russia.

Earlier this month the Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and the Home Office minister Tom Tugendhat publicly called for defence spending to reach at least 2.5% of GDP, and others have called for an eventual target of 3%.

Before becoming an MP, Heappey spent 10 years serving in the Rifles, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Kenya, and reached the rank of major.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *