Labour heavyweight Alan Johnson will not stand in the ‘snap’ general election as MPs from Jeremy Cobyn’s party signalled they were fleeing the party.
The MP for Hull West and Hessle and ex-Home Secretary will mark his 20th anniversary in parliament next month, but has now said he will “do other things with my life”.
In a letter to his constituency party he suggested he may have stood ahead of the vote in 2020, when the next general election was supposed to take place.
Johnson made no criticism of the party’s leadership in his resignation letter, but has in the past branded Corbyn supporters “tyrannical” middle-class “smart-a***s” and railed against the “self-righteous” leader.
The MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, made the announcement within an hour of May calling the June election on Tuesday morning, citing “significant and irreconcilable differences” with the Labour leader.
“As far as the constituency and the Party are concerned, no MP wants to put them through the anguish of a mid-term by-election, so for me the personal decision is whether to retire now or in 2022 when I’ll be into my 70s.
“I’ve decided that going now will give me the opportunity to do other things with my life and is therefore in the best interests of me and my family.”
Another Labour MP told a journalist “loads” would follow his example as most do not want Corbyn to lead them into a General Election.
Blenkinsop, who was elected in 2010, said he felt he could not “in good faith stand as the Labour candidate”.
“Representing the people of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has been the proudest years of my life,” Blenkinsop said in a statement.
“I will do all I can in my time remaining as an MP to champion my constituents and the area that means so much to me, as I have been proud to do over the last seven years.”
In a statement, Johnson, said he “can’t go on for ever” as an MP. “As far as the constituency and the Party are concerned, no MP wants to put them through the anguish of a mid-term by-election, so for me the personal decision is whether to retire now or in 2022 when I’ll be into my 70s,” he said.
Another MP told Politics Home: “I think you’ll see an exodus of Labour MPs - before and after the election.
“Lots of colleagues are now thinking about their future, or as in many cases, the lack of it. Lots will stand down ahead of near-certain defeat or because Jeremy has made the atmosphere inside the party so miserable.
“And of course the sad fact is very many decent hardworking colleagues are set to lose their seat thanks to Jeremy and his allies.”
Corbyn’s statement on the election, which did not mention Brexit, said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.”
The announcement will come as a shock to Corbyn, who, many keen observers believe, does not want to be prime minister, having unexpectedly being elected Labour leader in 2015.
Sky News political editor Faisal Islam noted Corbyn’s statement failed to mention his own desire to be PM.
Pollsters YouGov reminded everyone how low Labour was polling.
The pro-Remain Lib Dems, who have just nine MPs but a much less ambiguous position than Labour on Brexit, said they gained 1,000 new members in the hour after May’s election announcement.