Philip Hammond will quit politics at the upcoming general election rather than run against his party, the former Treasury boss confirmed today.
Hammond, who has railed against Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy from the backbenches since leaving his post as chancellor, said he has made the decision with “great sadness”.
The Runnymede and Weybridge MP said he decided to leave politics after the Prime Minister withdrew the whip from him and 20 other Tory rebels, when they moved to block a no-deal Brexit earlier this year.
Saying the general election had presented him with an “acute dilemma” – either quitting the Tory party to stand against the Tories as an Independent, or stepping down as a politician.
Hammond added: “If I fight the General Election as an Independent conservative candidate against an official Conservative Party candidate, I would cease to be a member of the party.
“However aggrieved I feel at the loss of the whip, and however strongly I believe that we must deliver Brexit through a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU to protect British jobs and prosperity, I remain a Conservative and I cannot, therefore, embark upon a course of acvtion that would represent a direct challenge in a General Election to the party I have supported all my adult life.”
“I am saddened to find myself in this position after 45 years of Conservative Party membership,” he added.
Hammond joins other high profile former and current Tory party members who are leaving at the next election.
Hammond accused the government of blocking Brexit to “create a narrative” after he voted against the government to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
He told BBC’s Today programme that “it is the government itself which has been blocking Brexit”.
Johnson withdrew his Brexit bill from parliament after MPs backed an amendment which effectively forced the Prime Minister to seek a delay that blew his 31 October Brexit deadline out of the water.
The UK is now due to leave on 31 January 2020.
But he has said: “It really doesn’t matter how many times my party kicks me, abuses me, reviles me, they will not stop me being a Conservative.”
Heidi Allen is set to quit politics over “nastiness” she has received as an MP, while other big names leaving include former Conservative Rory Stewart, who is running for London mayor.
Tory grandees Ken Clarke and Michael Fallon are both standing down, as well as Nicky Morgan and Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames.