James Heappey MP will not be standing at next election in 'painful decision' to quit

  • James Heappey explains his reasons for stepping down from his role as an MP.

James Heappey is set to leave his role as armed forces minister and will not stand for reelection.

The Conservative MP for Wells, in Somerset, and army veteran confirmed in a letter to his constituents that he will stand down from the Commons at the next general election.

But Mr Heappey said his constituents can be "assured of his full commitment until the end of this Parliament".

He said, while it was a “painful decision” not to contest the election, he wanted to “prioritise my family and pursue a different career”.

  • 'Good people will be put off' - Mr Heappey warns about intolerance in politics

“After much reflection, I am afraid I have taken the painful decision not to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming general election,” he said in a letter shared on social media on Friday 15 March.

“I am enormously grateful to the new Wells & Mendip Hills Conservative Association for having selected me as their candidate at the special general meeting last year but, as you know, a great deal has changed in my life over the last few years and I have concluded that now is the time to step away from politics, prioritise my family and pursue a different career.”

Mr Heappey concluded his letter by saying that he will "make each of my remaining days in Westminster count in the service of my constituency".

The Ministry of Defence said it would not be commenting.

Mr Heappey had been hotly tipped to succeed Ben Wallace as defence secretary following his resignation last year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak instead gave the Cabinet post to Grant Shapps, who has not had military experience.

Mr Heappey adds his name to a growing list of Tory MPs to announce they are to leave Parliament, with former prime minister Theresa May and former party chairman Sir Brandon Lewis some of the most recent additions.

Speaking to ITV News West Country, Mr Heappey said: "The reason you're seeing a spate of people standing down at the moment is precisely because if you're not wanting to be part of that team making the case for the next election, now is exactly the time to step back and to let others come to the fore."

  • Heappey: 'If you're not wanting to be part of the team, now is the time to step back'

He also spoke of how politics has become more intolerant in his opinion. He said: "I have never feared for my safety but I would reflect that our public discourse is becoming ever less tolerant.

"This kind of scorched earth, you either think as I do or you are not only disagreed with but you are disagreed with and you are despicable for holding a different view, that is not a good development in our public discourse.

"What's worse is that it's not just that the left is intolerant of the right and the right is intolerant of the left, there's also an intolerant centre who believe they have a monopoly on wisdom and they are intolerant of people on both sides.

"You end up with intolerance across the political spectrum and that is not doing our politics or our country any good whatsoever."

Mr Sunak on Thursday ruled out holding an election on 2 May to coincide with local elections, having previously indicated he will send the country to the polls in the latter half of 2024.