As the political landscape heats up in the lead-up to the next general election, Jeremy Hunt, a prominent Conservative figure, is reportedly considering stepping down as a Member of Parliament (MP). Senior members of the Conservative party have conveyed concerns that Hunt may face a “Michael Portillo” moment on election day, prompting him to evaluate his political future.
Hunt had previously confirmed his candidacy for the newly formed Surrey constituency of Godalming and Ash, necessitated by the division of his former South West Surrey seat following boundary changes. However, murmurs among both national and local sources within the Conservative party suggest that, given the party’s recent setbacks in by-elections and a solidifying poll lead for Labour, Hunt may announce his departure closer to the impending election.
With the prospects of a Labour government on the horizon, the political calculus for Hunt concerning his new electoral bid appears increasingly unattractive. Even in the event of winning, the idea of serving as an opposition MP under a new party leader is reportedly unappealing to Hunt’s political ambitions. Furthermore, should he lose, Hunt could potentially become the most high-profile casualty of the election, an outcome he would be eager to avoid, as noted by sources within Surrey.
Hunt’s potential departure raises questions about his role as Chancellor in the run-up to the general election. Given his substantial background in business prior to entering politics, Hunt could anticipate elevation to the House of Lords upon leaving the House of Commons. This transition would allow him to maintain a political role while pursuing his commercial interests.
Paul Follows, the Liberal Democrat leader on Waverley council and a longtime political rival of Hunt, was recently confirmed as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Godalming and Ash constituency. Follows expressed his intent to ensure that what is colloquially referred to as a “Portillo moment” in the public’s consciousness would instead become a “Hunt moment.”
Recent polls have hinted at potential defeats for numerous cabinet ministers, including Hunt, party chairman Greg Hands, deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden, and leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, in the next election. A recent MRP poll, taking into account new electoral boundaries, projected a significant majority for Labour, with the Tories facing potential losses in both traditional “red wall” seats and those considered part of the “blue wall,” including Surrey.
Jeremy Hunt has served as the MP for South West Surrey since 2005, winning his first election with a majority of 5,711. He went on to increase this majority in subsequent elections. However, recent contests have seen his majority decrease, accompanied by rising Liberal Democrat support.
In his role as Chancellor, Hunt faces mounting pressure from Conservative MPs to stimulate economic growth, fulfill Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promises to combat inflation and reduce debt, and deliver a robust economic performance in the lead-up to the next election.