Bishop's Stortford's MP hits out at 'rise of narrow ideology over pragmatic commonsense' as he quits safe seat
Bishop's Stortford's Conservative MP Mark Prisk has announced he will not contest the next General Election because his heart's just not in it.
In a letter to Alex Curtis, chairman of the Hertford and Stortford Conservative Association, the 57-year-old said he was not giving up his safe seat because of Brexit.
He said: "This has been a difficult decision, but I have always believed that if you seek election it must be wholehearted and that you should be committed to serve a whole five-year parliament. I cannot make that commitment."
The chartered surveyor, who was born in Redruth in Cornwall, was first elected in 2001, succeeding fellow Conservative Bowen Wells, who had also served for 18 years since the Hertford and Stortford seat's creation in 1983. He has increased his majority on each of the four occasions he has sought re-election, increasing his share from 21,074 votes (44.7%) to 36,184 (60.3%) in 2017.
During his time in Parliament, the keen choral singer served as a business and enterprise minister from May 2010 to September 2012 and then as a housing minister for 13 months until October 2013. In 2007 he had been shadow minister for Cornwall.
In 2014, he was appointed as the Prime Minister's trade and investment envoy to the Nordic and Baltic nations and in 2016 also to Brazil. He is also a member of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee.
He said his decision to step down was "personal and is not in reaction to Brexit" but follows a tumultuous seven days for his party, with a string of defeats in Parliament for new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
As well as removing the whip from 21 party rebels as a result, Mr Johnson has been hit by a number of high-profile departures, including cabinet member and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and his brother Jo, MP for Orpington since 2010. AGeneral Election is widely predicted before the end of the year.
Mr Prisk voted Remain in the June 2016 EU Referendum, in line with the Hertford and Stortford constituency, which voted 50.8% Remain to 49.2% Leave, according to the House of Commons library – in contrast to the East Herts local government district, which voted 50.4% to 49.6% in favour of Leave. Nationally, the margin was 51.9% for Leave and 48.1% for Remain.
In his letter, Mr Prisk referenced the acrimony around leaving the European Union.
He said: "Now is the time for me to move on to the next phase of my life and a new career.
"I do, however, lament the wider decline in public discourse and the rise of narrow ideology over pragmatic commonsense.
"Democracy in the UK, as elsewhere, needs us to listen and think, before we speak.
"A healthy society needs us to respect others' views and to seek out ways we can work together. Too often these values are being ignored which I deeply regret."
Mr Prisk lives in Much Hadham with his wife Lesley. He paid tribute to her in his letter, saying she had always encouraged and supported him.
Hertford and Stortford General Election result 2017
Mark Prisk (Con) – 36,184 votes, 60.3% (+ 4.2%)
Katherine Chibah (Lab) – 17,149 votes, 28.6% (+ 10.7%)
Mark Argent (Lib Dem) – 4,845 votes, 8.1% (+ 0.3%)
David Woollcombe (Green) – 1,814 votes, 3% (- 1.7%)
Majority: 19,035 (31.7%, - 6.5%)
Turnout: 59,992 (72.8%, + 1.5%)