Tory MPs Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom will not stand at the General Election

The Housing Secretary and the former leader of the House of Commons join a growing list of Tory MPs stepping down ahead of July 4 General Election

Cabinet minister Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom have become the latest high-profile Tory MPs to announce they are standing down ahead of the July 4 election.

As he joined a growing parliamentary exodus, Mr Gove praised Rishi Sunak for espousing “the very best virtues” of the Tory party but said “it is time to leave”.

Mr Gove, who has been MP for Surrey Heath since 2005, said: “I know the toll office can take, as do those closest to me. No-one in politics is a conscript.

“We are volunteers who willingly choose our fate. And the chance to serve is wonderful. But there comes a moment when you know that it is time to leave. That a new generation should lead.”

In a letter to the chairman of Surrey Heath Conservatives posted on X, Mr Gove conceded he “undoubtedly made mistakes” throughout his political career but said he had always “tried to be a voice for those who have been overlooked and undervalued”.

In a show of support for Mr Sunak as campaigning for the General Election gets under way, he added: “We have a prime minister who I know exemplifies the patriotism, hard work, sense of selfless service and clarity of purpose which are the very best virtues of our party.

“He also has the policies which will guarantee a brighter, more prosperous future.”

Mr Gove thanked former colleagues, including Lord David Cameron, Theresa May, and his sometime ally, sometime rival Boris Johnson – all of whose Cabinets he served in.

In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted on X, Ms Leadsom, a former Commons leader, said she had come to the decision after “careful reflection”.

Addressing Mr Sunak, the South Northamptonshire MP since 2010, said: “I would like to thank you for your faith in giving me the responsibility as Minister for Start for Life, Primary Care and Public Health.”

She added: “I will continue to support the Conservative Party through this General Election and in the future as the party best aligned with the ideals and values of the people of the United Kingdom.”

Parliament has been officially prorogued ahead of dissolution on May 30 and the General Election on July 4.

Mr Sunak's surprise decision to call a summer election with the Conservative's trailing in th opinion polls means that some key pieces of legislation had to be abandoned, including his flagship plan to create a smoke-free generation.

Mr Gove and Ms Leadsom's departures add to a growing post-war record of nearly 80 Conservative MPs who have stepped down ahead of the election.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (right) on the Vote Leave campaign bus in Lancashire, as part of the Vote Leave EU referendum campaign. Credit: PA

The total number of MPs not seeking re-election on July 4 reached 77 on Friday, surpassing the previous high of 72 who quit prior to Sir Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide victory for Labour.

In his nearly 20 years as an MP, Mr Gove, a former journalist, made numerous comebacks to frontline politics. He first entered Lord Cameron’s Cabinet as education secretary before siding against him and with Mr Johnson on the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum.

He then backed Mr Johnson to become the new Conservative leader before launching his own unsuccessful bid.

He became environment secretary under Mrs May before joining Mr Johnson’s front bench following the 2019 election.

Mr Gove was sacked by Mr Johnson after telling the then-prime minister that his time in Downing Street was up as the 2022 government unraveled in the wake of Partygate.

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