If polls are to be believed, the 2024 general election could be a washout for the Conservatives and could give them their worst-ever result in its near 200-year history. With this news, it may not be surprising that, as of May 31st, a record 79 Tory MPs are exiting parliament – more so than prior to the 1997’s Labour landslide, the modern precedent for a governing party’s electoral drubbing. Whether stepping down after many years in the chamber, not seeing a bright future as an MP, or fearing the embarrassment of being defeated at the ballot box, these are 15 of the most noteworthy Tory MPs standing down. 

    1. Theresa May

    (Photo: New York Times)
    • First elected: 1997
    • Constituency: Maidenhead
    • Parliamentary positions: Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party, Home Secretary… 

    Perhaps the biggest name stepping down is former Prime Minister Theresa May. 

    First elected in that grim year for the Conservatives, 1997, May quickly rose through the ranks, with the One Nation conservative becoming Chair of the Conservative Party in 2002. She was a constant face in the Shadow Cabinet until 2010, when she became Home Secretary.  

    After the shock result of the 2016 EU referendum and PM David Cameron’s resignation, May got the keys to Number 10. The road never was smooth for May, who immediately had to deal with exiting the European Union whilst herself being in the Remain camp. Not only did she fall into a minority government after the 2017 election but she was met with a hostile Parliament who voted down her Brexit proposals by historic margins. 

    Since becoming a backbencher in 2019, she has remained an outspoken critic of her own party on Partygate, the watering down of net zero goals, and the Rwanda scheme. 

    2. Michael Gove

    (Photo: BBC)
    • First elected: 2005 
    • Constituency: Surrey Heath 
    • Parliamentary positions: Levelling Up Secretary, Justice Secretary, Education Secretary…

    In a surprise announcement days after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined the date for the next election, Michael Gove announced his retirement. 

    A consistent Cabinet member since 2010, Gove may never have held a Great Office of State but he was able to make a great impact. As well as being a leading figure in the Leave campaign during the EU referendum, Gove made two high-profile efforts for the Conservative Party leadership, with his 2016 run crucial in preventing bookies favourite Boris Johnson from running. 

    Jumping around roles during his time in the government, his time as Justice Secretary and Environment Secretary stand out as some of his strongest work, praised by political friends and foes alike for his reforms.  

    As for his sudden stand down – all the more abrupt due to his appearance in promotional campaign material – is perhaps because of the perceived jeopardy of his seat, which is at risk of being taken by the Liberal Democrats. 

    3. Savid Javid

    (Photo: Sky News)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: Bromsgrove
    • Parliamentary positions: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Health Secretary… 

    A fast-rising star upon entering the House of Commons, Thatcherite Javid entered the Cabinet during his first parliamentary term.  

    After serving as Culture, Business, and Communities Secretary, in 2018, he replaced Amber Rudd as Home Secretary, the first person of Asian origins to hold a Great Office of State. He gained popularity for, amongst other things, his stance in revoking radicalised ISIS member Shamima Begum. 

    Upon Boris Johnson’s ascension to the premiership, Javid became Chancellor. Ultimately, he would be the shortest-serving Chancellor since World War Two, being sacked in early 2020 after disagreements with Johnson and advisor Dominic Cummings. 

    The ever-reliable Javid was made Health Secretary to replace Matt Hancock, with a big roll overseeing vaccine rollout.  

    In 2022, he was the first major figure to resign from the Johnson Cabinet, triggering mass resignations which brought down Boris, stating “enough is enough” and the public “rightly expect better standards.” 

    He also ran for Tory leader in 2019 and 2022. 

    4. Dominic Raab

    (Photo: Politico)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: Esher and Walton 
    • Parliamentary positions: Deputy Prime Minister, First Secretary of State, Lord Chancellor… 

    At the height of his career, Dominic Raab served as acting Prime Minister in lieu of Boris Johnson during the Covid crisis.  

    Given the largely ceremonial Deputy PM position by Boris Johnson, Raab retained the position under Rishi Sunak, who he had also backed for leader. He himself had ran in the 2019 Conservative leadership race, backing Johnson after his own early elimination – despite the support of David Davis. During the same period, he would serve as Justice Secretary. 

    Elsewhere, he had been an avid Brexiteer and was made Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union in 2017. 

    He announced plans to step down in 2023 shortly after resigning from his Deputy PM post. This was after a report found he had bullied civil servants by acting in an “intimidating” matter and exhibited “unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct.” His seat was one of the Blue Wall seats at risk of falling to the Lib Dems. 

    5. Matt Hancock

    (Photo: The Independent)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: West Suffolk 
    • Parliamentary positions: Health Secretary

    Although many previous MPs are best known for several roles, Matt Hancock is known for one: Health Secretary. 

    Tasked with overseeing the biggest health crisis in a generation, Hancock served during the Covid-19 pandemic, delivering statements to the nation alongside PM Johnson and leading scientists.   

    Throughout his tenure, Hancock faced criticism over several aspects of the pandemic from Personal Protective Equipment, care homes, and open borders. These only worsened after journalist Isabella Oakeshott leaked some Hancock WhatsApp messages to the public. 

    He resigned from the role in 2021, having broken his own social distancing rules, being caught having an affair on CCTV. 

    The next year, Matt Hancock lost the Tory whip when – whilst still sitting as an MP – he appeared on popular reality TV show I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!  

    Facing national and local party opposition and perhaps eyeing a new career path, he announced he would step down in December 2022, looking for “new ways of reaching people.” 

    6. Andrea Leadsom

    (Photo: The Guardian)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: South Northamptonshire 
    • Parliamentary positions: Leader of the House of Commons, Minister of State for Energy, Lord President of the Council

    Dame Andrea Leadsom first came to real national attention during the 2016 EU referendum, identifying as a member of the Leave camp. 

    In the 2016 Conservative leadership race, Leadsom came second, trailing Theresa May 165-66 in the first ballot and 199-84 in the second. After her campaign was hampered by allegations of an altered CV and ill-judged comments over opponent May’s childlessness, she withdrew her candidacy. 

    Three years later, she ran to replace May, although she failed to pass the first ballot. 

    In the current parliament, perhaps her most noteworthy contribution was tabling an amendment to prevent the suspension of Tory MP Owen Paterson over a lobbying for cash scandal. 

    Just days after reportedly asking if a no confidence letter could still be submitted even after the election announcement, Leadsom wrote she would stand down, in her letter hailing achievements from her creation of the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme to creating a smoke-free generation. 

    7. John Redwood

    (Photo: Bracknell News)
    • First elected: 1987 
    • Constituency: Wokingham 
    • Parliamentary positions: Leadership candidate, Secretary of State for Wales

    Sir John Redwood today is best known for his 1995 challenge to prime minister John Major after he told his anti-EU critics to “put up or shut up.” Prior to this, he had been Secretary of State for Wales – infamous for miming the Welsh national anthem when not knowing the words – and Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, championing privatisation during Thatcher’s premiership. 

    Backed by Lord Tebbit and The Sun, Redwood failed with Major garnering nearly two-thirds of the vote. 

    After the 1997 election, Redwood entered another leadership campaign, this time coming third. He would also be influential in the result with his shock backing of Kenneth Clarke perhaps a defining moment in MPs switching to William Hague after publicly backed by Thatcher. 

    After his period in the Shadow Cabinet ended at the turn of the century, Redwood returned to the backbenches, where he remained a strong voice on the right of the party. 

    8. Kwasi Kwarteng

    (Photo: The Telegraph)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: Spelthorne 
    • Parliamentary positions: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Business Secretary 

    In September 2022, Kwasi Kwarteng was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer by new prime minister Liz Truss.  

    That month, he would unveil his ill-fated mini-budget, a non-OBR-reviewed radical economy policy that saw tax cuts that freaked out markets. In a nation already in the depths of an inflation crisis, this economy-crashing measure was a devastating career killer for all involved. 

    In October, Kwarteng was sacked by Truss after just 38 days, making Kwasi the second shortest-serving Chancellor ever and the shortest holder of the office not having been replaced due to death. After being criticised by fellow party bigwigs, Kwarteng was replaced by the more reliable pragmatist Jeremy Hunt.  

    With the disastrous mini-budget front and centre in this election, Kwarteng’s name held in infamy, and with no prominent political role seemingly in his future, he announced in February to stand down in the safe seat of Spelthorne in Surrey. 

    9. Nadhim Zahawi

    (Photo: Radio Times)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: Stratford-on-Avon 
    • Parliamentary positions: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chairman of the Conservative Party 

    After the resignation of Rishi Sunak in 2022, Boris Johnson appointed Nadhim Zahawi as his replacement. Less than 48 hours later, he was calling for Johnson to go but would stay his Chancellor during his outgoing lame duck period. 

    He ran in the subsequent leadership contest before endorsing eventual winner Liz Truss. 

    Under Truss, he was made Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster where he played a role in coordinating funeral arrangements for the Queen. 

    Rishi Sunak made his Chairman of the Conservative Party. He was sacked from this role in January 2023 when a report by the Independent Advisor on Ministers’ Interests found that Zahawi – who did not announce he was under investigation by HMRC – had seven breaches of the ministerial code. Thought to be one of the richest MPs in Parliament as a co-founder of the polling site YouGov, he later confirmed he paid nearly £5 million over a tax error. 

    10. Ben Wallace

    (Photo: The Spectator)
    • First elected: 2005 
    • Constituency: Lancaster and Wyre, Wyre and Preston 
    • Parliamentary positions: Defence Secretary 

    Made Defence Secretary in July 2019 by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Wallace retained this post through Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, lasting until late 2023. This made him not only the third longest-serving Defence Secretary ever but also the longest-serving Conservative. 

    During his tenure, he reportedly eyed up a role as NATO Secretary-General, although a lack of US support cut short any hopes of Wallace obtaining the position. 

    In July 2023, he said that Ukraine should be more grateful for UK support during its ongoing conflict with Russia, claiming they were treating it like an Amazon wish list. Days later, he confirmed plans to step down his role as Defence Secretary at the next reshuffle and also stand down as an MP. 

    Always a popular figure amongst party members, he was a favourite to replace Boris Johnson in 2022 but chose not to stand. His departure was described as leaving “a big vacancy in government” by the BBC. 

    11. Graham Brady 

    (Photo: Planet Radio)

    First elected: 1997

    Constituency: Altrincham and Sale West

    Parliamentary positions: Chairman of the 1922 Committee 

    Sir Graham Brady’s career went from a party loyalist to toppler of governments. Indeed, the former party whip who was a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Conservative Deputy Leader Michael Ancram and Leader Michael Howard would become leader of the influential 1922 Committee representing backbench MPs. 

    Brady would be the longest-serving 1922 Committee Chairman in the history of the role, during which he oversaw votes of no confidence in both Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson. 

    In 2022, the Committee reportedly received over 100 votes of no confidence in PM Liz Truss. On October 20th, Brady visited Truss to tell her her position was untenable, telling her when asked if the situation was retrievable “no, I don’t think it is.” The same day as she met with Brady, she announced she would resign. 

    He even briefly considered his own bid for the Tory Party leadership in 2019 but decided not to run. 

    12. Chris Grayling

    (Photo: British GQ)
    • First elected: 2001 
    • Constituency: Epsom and Ewell 
    • Parliamentary positions: Transport Secretary, Justice Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons… 

    First becoming a minister in 2010, Grayling joined the Cabinet in 2012 as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, in the latter of which he was the first non-lawyer to hold the role in at least 440 years. He oversaw a botched privatisation of the probation service, banned books in prisons – a move ruled illegal by the High Court, and proposed cuts leading to the first strike by barristers and solicitors in British history. 

    Things did not get much better as Transport Secretary, where he faced a close vote of no confidence. His last Cabinet role, The Guardian reported he cost the nation £3 billion. 

    In this parliament, Boris notably wanted him to chair the Intelligence and Security Committee. Despite the PM’s support, he lost after an insurgency by fellow Tory MP Julian Lewis. 

    In 2023, he announced he was stepping down after a prostate cancer diagnosis.  

    Conservative bigwig Michael Portillo has described Grayling as “the most incompetent minister of all time.” 

    13. George Eustice

    (Photo: Sky News)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: Camborne and Redruth 
    • Parliamentary positions: Food, Farming, and Fisheries Minister, Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Secretary 

    Elected with a razor-thin 66 vote majority, George Eustice made an impact as a backbencher both as a member of the anti-Alternate Vote camp in the 2011 referendum and vanguard against the so-called pasty tax. 

    When he became Secretary of the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, he described the role as his “dream job” but came under criticism for allowing badger culls, which drew public opposition from musician and campaigner Brian May from Queen. 

    During the pandemic, he made the memorable claim that a scotch egg was a “substantial meal if there were table service.” This was during a time when debate over the ambiguous rules of food service during Covid restrictions. 

    A Brexiteer, he has since been critical of the way leaving the EU was handled, denouncing the Australia deal as well as a lack of EU workers now in the UK. 

    When announcing plans to stand down, his seat was projected to be won by the Labour Party. 

    14. Bill Cash

    (Photo: The New European)
    • First elected: 1984 
    • Constituency: Stafford, Stone 
    • Parliamentary positions: Prominent backbencher, Shadow Attorney General 

    Sir Bill Cash, the oldest sitting MP in Parliament at 84-years-old, is stepping down also. 

    Since arrival in 1984, Cash has made quite the name for himself on the backbenches, especially in regards to Europe. A leading Eurosceptic, he was one of John Major’s Maastricht rebels in the 1990s and criticised Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit in 2019, calling for her resignation. 

    On a legislative level, Cash’s most renowned work was the Gender Equality (International Development) Bill 2013, which make the onus on the UK to attempt to work towards reforming gender inequalities globally. 

    As for this parliament, Cash’s contributions have been felt, with significant talking points being voting against the Commons Privilege report’s findings that Boris Johnson misled parliament over Partygate and tabling an amendment to the government’s Rwanda bill that would prevent the intervention of UK or international law to delay deportations. 

    Cash has won 10 different election contests during his parliamentary career. 

    15. Alok Sharma

    (Photo: The Evening Standard)
    • First elected: 2010 
    • Constituency: Reading West 
    • Parliamentary positions: President of COP26, Business Secretary, International Development Secretary 

    Sir Alok Sharma is perhaps best known for serving as chair of the UN’s 2021 COP26 summit in Glasgow. 

    Indeed, much of Sharma’s career has been dedicated to environmental causes, especially climate change – even threatening to resign in 2022 if the new Tory leader did not retain commitments to net zero. 

    That said, as Business Secretary, he played a role in the lockdown briefings whilst he helped introduce the National Security and Investment Act 2021 which allowed the government to intervene in takeovers seen as a risk to national security. 

    After COP26, the first UN climate deal to agree to a reduction in coal, Sharma made various criticisms of the environmental policies of Rishi Sunak. This includes oil and gas licenses as well as his watering down of net zero commitments, which Sharma has called “damaging…on the environment and climate action is fractured.” 

    His Reading West constituency seems prone for a Labour dethroning at the next election.