Henley MP latest Tory to announce exit at next general election

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A Conservative MP has announced he will not stand for re-election in Henley, which it was said Boris Johnson may have eyed amid speculation he might seek a safer seat.

John Howell, who has served as the Henley MP for 15 years, became the latest Tory to announce they will not run at the next general election.

In a letter to the South Oxfordshire Conservative Association on Tuesday, the 67-year-old said he would be retiring and wanted to “pursue other avenues”.

Boris Johnson
There has been speculation that Boris Johnson considered running for his former seat of Henley at the next election (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mr Howell went on to win the seat in four general elections, gaining a 14,053 majority over the Liberal Democrats in 2019.

He said: “By the time of the end of the next Parliament I will be coming up towards my mid-70s. I do not want to be in Parliament until that time as I would like to pursue other avenues.

“I am a strong supporter of Rishi Sunak and I hope that the South Oxfordshire Conservative Association will continue to get behind him.”

Mr Howell leads the British delegation to the Council of Europe and has served as a parliamentary private secretary to several ministers.

Mr Johnson represented the Henley constituency from 2001 to until his election as London mayor in 2008.

The former prime minister was last month re-selected as the Conservative candidate in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

It followed speculation that he might seek out a safer seat ahead of the next general election, expected next year.

While Mr Johnson holds a 7,000-vote majority, his west London seat is seen as a target for Labour at the next Westminster poll.

But allies of the former prime minister have always rejected any suggestion he would seek a new or safer seat, or that he plans to do anything else than run for his current seat.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “Boris Johnson is standing in Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the next general election and was recently reselected as the Conservative candidate there.”

A string of senior Tories and rising stars in the party have detailed their exit plans amid a polling slump, including former chancellor Sajid Javid and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee.

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