Ex-minister John Redwood becomes latest Tory MP to reveal they will quit on 4 July as Tory election exodus swells to 73 - while I'm a Celeb's Matt Hancock is (briefly) readmitted before he steps down

Sir John Redwood has become the latest MP to announce they are standing down ahead of the general election as the Tory exodus from Parliament continues to grow.

The 72-year-old has decided not to contest his Wokingham seat on July 4, saying: 'I have other things I wish to do.'

Sir John served as Welsh Secretary between 1993 to 1995 before challenging then-prime minister Sir John Major for the Tory leadership.

He received just 89 votes to Major's 218 in the 1995 contest, and was also later defeated in a second bid for leadership in 1997.

Sir John becomes the 73rd Tory MP to stand down ahead of the 4 July general election, which also includes two MPs briefly returned to the party.

Both former health secretary Matt Hancock and veteran MP Bob Stewart had the Conservative whip returned to them last night 'as a gesture of goodwill'.

The pair - who had already said they are standing down at the election - had been sitting as independent MPs in the Commons after previously losing the Tory whip.

Mr Hancock was suspsended from the Tory parliamentary party after appearing on TV show I'm A Celebrity without permission.

Mr Stewart surrendered the party whip after being found guilty of a racially-aggravated public order offence. The conviction was quashed on appeal in February.

Sir John Redwood has become the latest MP to announce they are standing down ahead of the general election as the Tory exodus from Parliament continues to grow

Sir John Redwood has become the latest MP to announce they are standing down ahead of the general election as the Tory exodus from Parliament continues to grow

Sir John, pictured in 1995, served as Welsh Secretary between 1993 to 1995 before challenging then-prime minister Sir John Major for the Tory leadership

Sir John, pictured in 1995, served as Welsh Secretary between 1993 to 1995 before challenging then-prime minister Sir John Major for the Tory leadership

Matt Hancock, who was suspsended from the Tory parliamentary party after appearing on TV show I'm A Celebrity without permission, has had the whip returned 'as a gesture of goodwill'

Matt Hancock, who was suspsended from the Tory parliamentary party after appearing on TV show I'm A Celebrity without permission, has had the whip returned 'as a gesture of goodwill'

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The previous record number of Tory MPs standing down before an election was 72 - the number who quit prior to Sir Tony Blair's 1997 landslide win.

Announcing his decision to leave the Commons, Sir John - who has been an MP since 1987 - wrote in a blog post: 'I have decided not to put my name forward in the forthcoming election.

'I have other things I wish to do. It has been a privilege to represent Wokingham in nine Parliaments.

'I have drawn many of my campaigns from the views I have heard on doorsteps and read in my email box.

'We have achieved good things together for our local community and the wider nation.

'I was pleased to help local Conservative Council candidates win seats in the recent local elections.

'We stopped the Lib Dems winning a majority despite their forecasts by highlighting the big damage they are doing to our roads, the money they waste, their neglect of public spaces and the way they are worsening our refuse service.'

At the 2019 general election, Sir John was re-elected as Wokingham MP with a majority of 7,383.

The Lib Dems claimed he was 'yet another big beast in the South of England who is now running scared'.

The party's deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: 'This is yet another Conservative big beast in the South of England who is now running scared.

'Wokingham is a key battleground where the Liberal Democrats are the clear challengers to the Conservatives.

'Right across the blue wall Conservative MPs are standing down in their droves and it's because they're worried about losing their seats to the Liberal Democrats.

'From the cost of living crisis to the sewage scandal these Conservatives know they've failed their constituents and now they're abandoning their seats.'

Lib Dem sources pointed to how the party had won 47 per cent of the popular vote in the Wokingham constituency at last month's local elections, compared to the Tories' 35 per cent.

Yesterday, on the first day of the general election campaign, transport minister Huw Merriman and work and pensions minister Jo Churchill announced they are not seeking re-election.

Ms Churchill cited 'family reasons' in her resignation letter, saying she had the 'utmost respect for the difficult job' of the Prime Minister.

Bexhill and Battle MP Mr Merriman did not specify a reason for his departure but thanked his staff, local Conservative association and Rishi Sunak, and paid tribute to his constituency.

A spate of high-profile Tories will not feature on the ballot paper, including former prime minister Theresa May and former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, who both said they would not run again before the election was called.

Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Commons Speaker who was elected as an MP but relinquished party affiliation to take up her role, and former minister Sir Michael Ellis, are also stepping down.

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