Cabinet Minister Gove Joins Tory MP Exodus Before UK Election

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, a key figure in the Conservative Party for over a decade, said he is standing down as a member of Parliament, a major blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the start of a six-week campaign to try prevent the Labour Party taking power at the July 4 general election.

Bloomberg
Updated25 May 2024
Cabinet Minister Gove Joins Tory MP Exodus Before UK Election
Cabinet Minister Gove Joins Tory MP Exodus Before UK Election

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, a key figure in the Conservative Party for over a decade, said he is standing down as a member of Parliament, a major blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the start of a six-week campaign to try prevent the Labour Party taking power at the July 4 general election.

In a letter posted on social media, Gove, 56, said he still supports Sunak but that it was time for “a new generation” to lead. The high-profile MP joins a growing exodus of almost 80 Tories who have said they are quitting at the election, exceeding the departures ahead of Labour’s landslide victory in 1997.

Gove has represented Surrey Heath, southwest of London, since 2005 and had a 31.% majority when the seat was last contested in the 2019 general election won by the Tories. It is considered part of the so-called Blue Wall of safe Tory districts, but Gove’s departure will still fuel the perception that the Conservative Party’s slump in the opinion polls has put those areas at risk.

It will also increase the scrutiny on Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, whose nearby South West Surrey district will be divided up at the election. Hunt has said he will stand in the new Godalming and Ash constituency — where many predict he’ll face a high-profile defeat on election night.

“Conservative politicians are fleeing the blue wall in their droves,” Sarah Olney, a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats who are targeting Surrey Heath and nearby seats. “The drumbeat of Conservative MPs stepping down has been getting louder as the days go by — now it’s deafening.”

Gove is one of the longest-serving and prominent cabinet ministers of the last 14 years of Conservative governments. A close ally of David Cameron and George Osborne, he served in the former’s cabinet as education secretary. 

Yet he is more widely known for his role in Brexit. Breaking from his friend Cameron, Gove led the campaign to quit the European Union with Boris Johnson. When the Leave side unexpectedly won the 2016 referendum, Gove briefly ran Johnson’s campaign to become Conservative leader and UK prime minister. 

But in one of the most dramatic moments in an era of British politics that has had no shortage of them, Gove famously turned against Johnson before seeking the leadership himself. In the end it was Theresa May who became leader, triggering years of Conservative Party wrangling over how to implement Brexit.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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