A Tory MP has confirmed he will not seek re-election in the seat once held by Boris Johnson – and which reports suggest the former prime minister may seek out in the future for a "safer" run for parliament.
John Howell, who represents Henley, has become the latest Conservative MP to confirm they will not stand as a party candidate in the next general election, which can take place no later than January 2025.
Mr Howell became the MP for Henley in 2008 when Mr Johnson vacated the seat to become London mayor that year.
Junior doctors march to Downing Street on first day of industrial action – politics latest
There have been reports that Mr Johnson – who is currently awaiting verdict from parliament’s privileges committee over whether he misled MPs over partygate – could seek to run again in his former seat, which is more secure than the one he currently holds in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
In a social media post on Tuesday, Mr Howell wrote: "By the time of the end of the next parliament I will be coming up towards my mid-70’s.
"I do not want to be in parliament until that time as I would like to pursue other avenues. I am a strong supporter of Rishi Sunak and I hope that the South Oxfordshire Conservative Association will continue to get behind him."
Last month Mr Johnson was reselected as the Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which he has held since 2015.
Mr Johnson’s spokesperson sought to dampen speculation about Henley by pointing to his recent reselection result in Uxbridge.
"Boris Johnson is standing in Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the next general election and was recently reselected as the Conservative candidate there," they told Sky News.
However, Mr Johnson’s future as the constituency’s MP is far from certain.
At the last general election, Mr Johnson retained the seat with a majority of 7,210 and an increased vote share of 52.6% after dipping in popularity in the 2017 election.
However, Mr Howell currently enjoys a majority of 14,053 votes – nearly double that earned by Mr Johnson in 2019.
Labour has also made Uxbridge one of its top targets at the next election, with Danny Beales, a local councillor in Camden, north London, selected to take Mr Johnson on.
If parliament’s privileges committee finds that Mr Johnson did mislead MPs – something he has strenuously denied – it could recommend a suspension from the House of Commons of 10 days of more, which could trigger a recall petition.
If 10% of voters in his Uxbridge constituency sign the petition he could lose his job as an MP as a by-election would have to take place.
During the committee’s questioning last month, Mr Johnson insisted "hand on heart" that he did not lie about rules and guidance being broken in Downing Street and insisted the statements he made to the Commons were made in "good faith" and based on assurances from senior staff.
He also defended gatherings that he attended – five in total – claiming leaving dos and thanking staff was "absolutely essential for work purposes".
Partygate inquiry: What next for Boris Johnson?
Boris Johnson re-selected to run in Uxbridge at next general election after suggestions of safer seat
But the committee raised concerns he may not have sought "proper advice" about whether regulations had been followed before making speeches at the dispatch box.
And in an interim report published on 3 March, the committee said the evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus rules in No 10 would have been "obvious" to Mr Johnson.
The cross-party committee of MPs has not given a clear timeline for when it will conclude its investigation, but a spokesperson said it "reserves the right to request further oral evidence from witnesses in the course of the inquiry" – including from the former PM – meaning there could be further sessions with Mr Johnson before a conclusion is reached.
Other Conservatives who have confirmed they are standing down at the next election include former chancellor and Tory leadership contender Sajid Javid, former Tory MP and health secretary Matt Hancock and former culture secretary Nadine Dorries.
© Sky News 2023