Tory exodus grows as former Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi to stand down at next election in latest blow for Rishi Sunak

9 May 2024, 07:37 | Updated: 9 May 2024, 08:48

Mr Zahawi announced he is stepping down
Mr Zahawi announced he is stepping down at the next General Election. Picture: Getty
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Nadhim Zahawi, who has served as MP for Stratford-on-Avon for 14 years, confirmed he will not be standing at the next general election.

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Mr Zahawi was sacked as Conservative Party chairman in January last year after an ethics investigation found he had committed a "serious breach of the Ministerial Code" following days of questions over his tax affairs.

Prior to this, Mr Zahawi was the education secretary from September 2021 to July 2022 then briefly was chancellor of the exchequer between July and September 2022.

In November 2020, he was appointed vaccines minister and oversaw the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine programme for around 11 months.

Born in Iraq in 1967, Mr Zahawi said in his statement: "How is it that a boy from Baghdad who came to these shores, fleeing persecution and unable to speak a word of English, was able to do as much as I have?"

Mr Zahawi led the rollout of coronavirus vaccines
Mr Zahawi led the rollout of coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic. Picture: Getty

The announcement is just the latest in a series of fresh blows for the Prime Minister who is facing a Tory exodus at the next contest with more Conservative MPs standing down than at any point since Labour’s landslide in 1997.

The news comes just a day after Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour, becoming the second Tory to cross the floor in two weeks.

Ms Elphicke defected from the Conservatives yesterday after accusing Rishi Sunak of running a "tired and chaotic government".

Last week, in the local elections, Mr Sunak acknowledged a "disappointing" set of results for the party which lost ten councils and 470 councillors.

Read more: John McDonnell 'shocked' by Natalie Elphicke defecting to Labour, as top official brands party 'dustbin for far right'

The Prime Minister is facing more defections and resignations in the run-up to the General Election.
The Prime Minister is facing more defections and resignations in the run-up to the General Election. Picture: Alamy

Posted to X on Thursday morning, Mr Zahawi quoted Stratford-upon-Avon's most famous resident in his statement.

Here's Mr Zaharwi's statement in full:

"With the exception of convincing my wife to marry me, it has been the greatest honour of my life to represent the people of Stratford-on-Avon and serve as a Minister of the Crown. But after 14 years in Parliament, and multiple roles in Cabinet and Government, I have come to the decision not to stand again at the next general election.

"Every morning as I shave my head in the mirror, I have to pinch myself. How is it that a boy from Baghdad who came to these shores, fleeing persecution and unable to speak a word of English, was able to do as much as I have? For all our challenges, this is the best country on Earth, and it helped me make my British dream come true. It was where I built a Great British business, YouGov, and it was where I raised my wonderful family. And it was the nation to which I was proud to return such a favour when I led the world-leading coronavirus vaccination rollout.

"I feel immensely privileged to have been called upon to serve my country across government. As education secretary I kept schools open during Omicron, and as chancellor of the Exchequer, I ensured Ukraine's valiant efforts against Russia were properly supported. I was also given the unique responsibility of coordinating the funeral commemorations for our beloved Queen Elizabeth II. I was also proud to become chairman of the Conservative Party to which I have belonged for most of my adult life, first as a councillor and then as an MP, and to have become Patron of the Adam Smith Institute.

"But serving the constituents of Stratford-on-Avon is the most important work I have done as a Member of Parliament. Whether they are struggling against the dead hand of bureaucracy, or are stricken by tragedy, being able to help them in their time of need remains one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. I am proud that my constituents felt able to confide in me. I was able to do this thanks to my amazing association chairman, Lynda Organ, her association officers, my election agent Jill Simpson-Vince, and the rest of the local team who work so hard, and who form a shining example of Burke's little platoons.

"But as my most famous constituent once wrote: "Go to your bosom, knock there and ask your heart what it doth know I have come to feel that the time is right for a new, energetic Conservative to fight for the honour of representing Stratford-on-Avon and assuming the mantle of MP for Shakespeare. I will, of course, serve my constituents with dedication and determination until then, and the prime minister, and the Conservative Party, will continue to have my unswerving support into and beyond the next general election.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow. I would like to thank all of my parliamentary staff and colleagues, civil service officials, special advisers, and everyone the who has ever given me advice, praise, or kept me in check with criticism. My mistakes have been mine, and my successes have come from working with, and leading, amazing people. I am most grateful of all for the love of my family and friends, especially Lana."