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Rory Stewart quits Conservatives and will stand down at next election

3 min read

Rory Stewart has said he will not be standing as an MP at the next general election and has resigned from the Conservative party.

In a shock move the former International Development Secretary, who ran for the Tory leadership this summer, announced he will quit as the member for Penrith and The Border, where he has served for ten years.

Announcing the decision on Twitter, Mr Stewart said: “It’s been a great privilege to serve Penrith and The Border for the last ten years, so it is with sadness that I am announcing that I will be standing down at the next election, and that I have also resigned from the Conservative Party.”

The resignation comes after he was one of the 21 Tory MPs who had the party whip removed last month for rebelling against the Government to vote for the bill to block a no-deal Brexit.

Writing in The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, Mr Stewart further explained his decision to his constituents.

"Because I have loved the constituency so much, I had considered standing as an Independent; but I have decided that I wouldn’t want to run against those Conservative members who have been such wonderful colleagues over the last ten years," he said.

"I am hugely grateful to all the members of my local party who have written in support, and to the Chair and President of my local party, who have resigned from the Conservative Party in support of my position.

"But it should be no secret that there are also local party members who would rather I did not run again. I don’t want to test loyalties, destroy old friendships or push any of these issues any further. There is enough toxic division in British politics without importing it into Cumbria!"

Speaking to BBC's Today programme last month Mr Stewart said he hoped the current divisions within the party is a "passing phase" in the Conservatives, and said he intended to re-stand as a Conservative at the next election.

He added: "I have full confidence that the Government will eventually realise that this is no way to treat a party."

But his u-turn comes amid uncertainty over Brexit as Boris Johnson's alternative plan for the Irish backstop and "final offer", has been rejected by Brussels.

Mr Stewart went on to explain in The Herald: "I am a public servant to my core and will stay involved in politics, endeavouring to make my voice heard.

"I will, of course, continue to explain why I voted for a Brexit deal, while rejecting a No-Deal Brexit (especially because of the damage it would inflict on Cumbria and sectors such as farming).

"But ultimately I want to move beyond Brexit, and focus on getting things done on the ground.

"I think our great parties are now in danger of coming apart, and our great parliament is becoming increasingly diminished. I want to show how much difference can still be made outside parliament."

Responding to the news, former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd tweeted: "What a loss to politics. An outstanding MP and minister. One of the strongest speakers in Parliament. Principled, patient, thoughtful. I feel certain he’ll be back.”

And former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson added: "Very sorry to see. Our party should have room for talented, experienced and committed people from across the Conservative spectrum."

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