Tory MP for Harlow Robert Halfon resigns as skills minister in fresh blow to Sunak

Harlow MP Robert Halfon.
MP for Harlow Robert Halfon Credit: PA

Government minister Robert Halfon has resigned from his post and has announced he will stand down as an MP at the next election.

In a fresh blow to Rishi Sunak, the Tory MP for Harlow unexpectedly resigned as skills, apprenticeships and higher education minister on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, James Heappey followed through on his stated intention to step down as armed forces minister ahead of exiting Parliament at the general election.

Mr Halfon, who has been MP for Harlow since 2010, said in a letter to the prime minister: “I feel that it is time for me to step down at the forthcoming General Election, and in doing so, to resign as a Minister in your Government."

Mr Halfon quoted the Lord of the Rings in his resignation letter, writing "I often feel more like the character Bilbo Baggins than Gandalf".

He said he turns to the author JRR Tolkien "both as a source of comfort, but also for some good advice" at significant moments in his political life.

He wrote: "As I move towards stepping down at the General Election, I am reminded of what Gandalf said to Frodo Baggins after the defeat of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings:

“I am with you at present…but soon I shall not be. I am not coming to the Shire…My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so. And as for you, my dear friends, you will need no help…among the great you are, and I have no longer any fear at all for any of you.”

Mr Halfon and Mr Heappey join a growing exodus of Tory MPs from the Commons as the Conservatives languish in the polls ahead of the national vote expected later this year.

In his letter to Mr Halfon, Mr Sunak told him he was “very sorry to hear” of his decision to step down from government and to stand down at the next election.

“You have made an important contribution to our public life, spanning almost 25 years,” the prime minister wrote.

He commended Mr Halfon for being a “stalwart champion” for apprenticeships and promoting social mobility.

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