I reported last month on the mechanism that could be used to restore the Whip to some of the 21 MPs, should they and the Party leadership wish to do so.
That has proved accurate, and some of the 21 have regained the Whip via that route. However, as I noted at the time that does not automatically equate to reselection as a Conservative candidate: ‘even for any MP who navigated the panel successfully this arrangement still rightly leaves the final verdict to readopt or not in the hands of their association’.
That seems to be exactly what has happened in the case of Margot James. Her letter to the Prime Minister announcing her departure from Parliament contains several interesting points – not least that ‘we agreed on just about everything apart from Brexit…I trust in your One Nation outlook’ and that she feels she has been engaged in a ‘three and a half year conflict between the result of the referendum in my constituency, and my own view of where the future interests of the country lie’.
Most salient, though, is the detail of her reason for leaving:
‘I wanted…to continue to serve as MP for Stourbridge…I am fortunate to have considerable support in my constituency, but sadly the opposite is the case among too many members of the Stourbridge Conservative Association.’
It seems that her association’s response to the idea was a sufficiently firm negative as to make up James’s mind that it simply wasn’t viable to continue. Stourbridge (Conservative majority: 7,654) is therefore added to our list of Tory-held seats in search of a candidate.
Dear Prime Minister,
I want to thank you for returning the Conservative whip to me earlier this week. It meant a great deal to me that you felt able to put the disagreement we had in September behind us. I also very much appreciated the conciliatory tone you struck in our meeting.
When we spoke a few months ago you said that we agreed on just about everything apart from Brexit. I agree with what you said, and I trust in your One Nation outlook, as evidenced by your outstanding record as Mayor of London. I wanted therefore to continue to serve as MP for Stourbridge.
I voted for your deal because my constituency voted to leave by 64% and I have always respected the result of the referendum. Brexit now so dominates politics that it has become the lens through which every Conservative candidate’s credentials are judged. I am fortunate to have considerable support in my constituency, but sadly the opposite is the case among too many members of the Stourbridge Conservative Association.
I have therefore decided to stand down from Parliament at the forthcoming election. It has been an immense privilege to serve as MP for Stourbridge since 2010; and as a minister in the Departments of BEIS and DCMS. In doing so I have had huge support from my constituents, activists, parliamentary colleagues and civil servants for which I will always be grateful.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my letter, I was very pleased to receive the whip back and I wanted to continue in Parliament. It was only after a period of reflection that I realised that I needed to bring the three and a half year conflict between the result of the referendum in my constituency, and my own view of where the future interests of the country lie to a close.
I would like to wish you all the very best for your future in the office of Prime Minister and during this important election; and I hope I will be able to contribute from outside Parliament to the furtherance of your One Nation agenda post Brexit. As we both know, the successful pursuit of One Nation policies depend first and foremost on a strong economy; and there is no greater threat to this than the extreme policies of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
Thank you again for your conduct towards me in recent weeks; it is very much appreciated.