'Time is right to go', says outgoing West Norfolk MP
North West Norfolk's outgoing MP says the time is right to stand down, despite feeling he's still "at the top of my game."
Sir Henry Bellingham has today thanked party members and constituents for their backing after the news of his decision to go broke yesterday afternoon.
In a statement, Sir Henry said he had planned to serve a full Parliament following the 2017 election, but questioned whether he would still have the drive to do so at the end of the next Parliament.
He said: "At the age of 64 I still feel I am at ‘the top of my game’, and every day I still have a passion and enthusiasm for this job.
"However, the question I have been asking myself is will I still have this when I am fast approaching 70.
"I take the view that it is much better to leave when people are politely saying you should be staying, rather than, ‘poor old Henry seems to have lost his drive and enthusiasm, so isn’t about time you found someone younger.”
Sir Henry suggested the coming election campaign would "overwhelmingly" be based on national issues and the choice between having either Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.
He added: “Finally, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of my members and supporters who have been so incredibly loyal to me over the last nine general elections.
"In good times and bad times, they have stuck by me and enabled me to do the job that I have always been totally passionate about.
"I would also like to thank those many thousands of constituents without whose votes I would never have been returned to Parliament.”
“Now is not the time to dwell too much on the past, because although I am very proud of numerous local achievements, what has brought me most reward and satisfaction has been the knowledge that I have been able to help so many individuals with their cases, and hopefully make their lives that much better.”
Party officials are set to write to members today to invite them to a special meeting to choose their candidate for the general election on December 12.
Election agent Ian Sherwood said yesterday that he hoped the process would be completed within the next week.
The news of Sir Henry's resignation prompted a mixed reaction from political allies and opponents.
Conservative county councillor Thomas Smith tweeted: "Am rather sad that our wonderful local MP Sir Henry Bellingham is stepping down, but I respect wanting to leave well thought of and when able to enjoy retirement. His successor will have a tough act to follow."
But Labour candidate Jo Rust questioned whether the decision may have been prompted by last week's Parliamentary standards report, in which Sir Henry was ordered to apologise for breaching rules relating to the declaration of business interests.
She said: "He has had a long tenure as our MP, but sadly I’ve not seen the improvements i would like for the area that I love.
"I look forward to learning who the next Conservative candidate will be and I wish Henry the very best retirement."
Liberal Democrat Rob Colwell added: "I’m excited that North West Norfolk will now be represented by a fresh new MP. All this at such an important time with the climate change crisis and the Brexit disaster needing urgent attention.
"Never have voters had such an important decision to make. They must 'Vote Well, Colwell.'"