David Cameron is standing down as MP for Witney with immediate effect, despite previously pledging to stay on until 2020.
The decision to resign from his seat will trigger a by-election.
It comes just three months after Cameron resigned from his job as Prime Minister, after Britain voted to leave the European Union. He told ITV he would be remembered for keeping his pledge to hold an EU referendum – despite the failure of that political gamble.
According to Chris Ship, the ITV journalist who broke the news, Cameron informed his successor, Theresa May, this afternoon.
He told Ship he had no immediate plans for his future, but added: “I will now be looking at a new life. I’m only 49.”
David Cameron says he has no current plans for his future but, as former Prime Minister, can’t be full constituency MP for people of Witney
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) September 12, 2016
Cameron won the seat of Witney, in Oxfordshire, in 2001, after the sitting MP defected to Labour and found a new constituency.
He joined the Home Affairs select committee, and the shadow cabinet. Four years after he won Witney, he had ascended to leader of the opposition, where he began to reform and modernise the Conservative party.
After five years presiding over a Coalition government, he led the Conservatives to victory in the 2015 general election. But he did so with a manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on EU membership. Just over a year later, he would be standing outside No. 10 Downing Street, announcing his resignation as PM.
Nevertheless, he initially insisted he would remain a constituency MP. In March, when he outlined plans to step down as PM during his second term, he said he still would run in the 2020 election in Witney. In July, he repeated his pledge to continue serving as an MP.
He told ITV News: “It isn’t really possible to be a proper backbench MP as a former Prime Minister. Everything you do becomes a big distraction and diversion from the what the government needs to do for our country.”
“I support Theresa May. I think she’s got off to a great start. I think she could be a strong Prime Minister for our country.”
Despite his praise for May, by resigning, Cameron will avoid the dilemma of whether or not to back the policies of May, his former Home Secretary. He remains lukewarm about the expansion of grammar schools, a policy which is now back on the Government’s agenda. Cameron told ITV May had been “understanding” and that the timing of his announcement was coincidental, but admitted: “Obviously I have my own views about certain issues.”
He added: “I’m sure I will remembered for keeping that pledge to hold a referendum when many people thought that promise would never be kept. I hope people will look back at 11 years I was leader of the Conservative party and six years I was PM as a time when we did create a stronger economy.”
Cameron also said the Tories had gone from “being the doldrums” to “being a modernising, winning force” under his leadership.
George Osborne, Cameron’s Chancellor and one of his closest allies, tweeted: “Sorry to see my great friend David Cameron stepping down – he loved being Witney’s MP; I know how difficult this decision has been for him. We came into Parliament together, had a great partnership. I will miss him alongside me on the green benches over the coming years. Sad day.”
William Hague, a former cabinet minister, tweeted his support for his decision, noting: “Right decision by David Cameron to leave Commons – former Prime Ministers are either accused of doing too little or being a distraction.”
Right decision by David Cameron to leave Commons – former Prime Ministers are either accused of doing too little or being a distraction.
— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) September 12, 2016
May thanked Cameron and added: “I was proud to serve in David Cameron’s Government – and under his leadership we achieved great things. Not just stabilising the economy, but also making great strides in delivering serious social reform.”