Dozen Tory MPs seek new seats in push to stay in office beyond next UK election

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More than a dozen Conservative MPs are seeking re-election in a different seat to the one they now represent, sparking an angry backlash in some quarters of Britain’s governing party.

Internal Tory critics have accused some of their Westminster colleagues of abandoning local voters at the next election, expected in 2024, in pursuit of safer constituencies where victory is more likely.

They warned the manoeuvre would increase the party’s chances of losing in a seat where the sitting MP has fled, and that it tended to seed disaffection in Conservative associations. “It goes down horrendously badly with local members,” said one Tory insider.

The tally of at least 13 Tory MPs seeking a new berth, calculated by the Financial Times based on testimony from party officials and publicly available information, continues to rise amid stubborn poll ratings.

The Conservatives trail the opposition Labour party by an average of 20 points, while electoral experts predict Sir Keir Starmer may be on track for a landslide following a double by-election win last week.

Conservative officials also worry that sleaze scandals risk contributing to a sense of “decay” in a party that has been in power for 13 years. On Thursday, Tory MP Crispin Blunt said he had been arrested on suspicion of rape. He has said he is confident he will not be charged.

On Wednesday, MPs approved a six-week House of Commons suspension for Peter Bone, after a parliamentary watchdog found the Tory MP had bullied and committed indecent exposure in front of an employee. He has denied the allegations.

Cabinet minister Gillian Keegan insisted “individual incidents” had been investigated, but denied there was a “cultural issue” among Tory MPs.

This week Jamie Wallis became the latest Conservative to announce he was seeking candidacy in a new seat “with a sense of humour and a philosophical view”, after confirming he would not be standing in Bridgend, south Wales, because of boundary changes.

Labour has a 94 per cent chance of gaining the redrawn constituency, according to Electoral Calculus, a political forecasting website.

The map of 650 constituencies across the UK is being revised for the first time in more than 20 years to take account of population changes. The move means some regions will gain new seats, while others will lose them. While a small proportion of seats will disappear altogether, many face changes to their boundaries.

Kieran Mullan, Andy Carter and Chris Clarkson are three MPs all first elected in 2019 in the “Red Wall” — seats in northern England that had traditionally voted Labour — now examining options to stand elsewhere at the next election, said people familiar with the matter. They each represent seats the Tory party looks set to lose on current national polling. Mullan was approached for comment and Clarkson declined to comment.

Kieran Mullan, Chris Clarkson and Andy Carter
Left to right: Kieran Mullan, Chris Clarkson and Andy Carter © UK Parliament

Carter said: “Under the new boundaries my seat [Warrington South] would have gone to Labour in 2019, so the changes mean the party has declared I am a displaced MP.”

The Conservatives have allowed all those MPs whose seats are “materially and adversely affected” by the boundary changes to apply for displacement status. However, one Tory insider warned “people granted displacement have no guarantee of getting another seat”, adding that it was not a “golden ticket”.

Alongside facing allegations of trying to doing a “chicken run” from a marginal seat or “parachuting” into a safe seat, moving can involve other hiccups. Some selection battles have awkwardly featured sitting MPs pitched head-to-head, alongside external candidates, for the same seat.

Meanwhile, when former Tory minister Chris Pincher resigned as MP for Tamworth in September after a groping scandal, the candidate selected to contest the seat at the next election, Eddie Hughes, did not fight the by-election last week because he was already an MP elsewhere.

Three Tory MPs have successfully been selected as a candidate in an entirely different seat to the one they now represent. Others have become the candidate in a new seat that boasts some overlap with their present seat.

Selections are continuing across the country, with transparency injected into typically secretive internal party processes by Michael Crick, the veteran journalist.

Crick, who has tracked each selection by scouring open source information and encouraging leaks before publishing the results on an account on social media site X, said it was important to understand the reasons for MPs seeking a switch.

“You can divide them into two groups: those giving up on a hopeless seat and those who’ve had no option [because their seat disappears]. Boundary changes muddy the water and therefore you can get away with it,” he said.

There is a long history of such manoeuvres. Winston Churchill famously represented five seats during his political career, while a string of Tory MPs moved to safer seats ahead of Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour landslide.

Some party insiders take a less sympathetic view. One Tory MP said colleagues looking to switch to safer seats were “pathetic”, accusing them of being “frightened of being held accountable by their voters”.


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