Robert Halfon quits government and will step down from parliament at next election

The Jewish MP has announced that he will not stand for parliament at the next general election


'I am not coming to the Shire': Robert Halfon will not seek reelection at the next general election (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Jewish MP Robert Halfon has become the latest high profile Tory to quit politics as he resigned as skills, apprenticeships and higher education minister and announced that he will not stand at the next general election.

Writing to the prime minister, he said: “After well over two decades as the Harlow Parliamentary Candidate and as MP, I feel that it is time for me to step down at the forthcoming General Election, and in doing so, to resign as a Minister in your Government...

“I believe that across the country, there is quiet admiration for your work ethic, integrity and ability to solve complex problems faced by our country.”

The former education select committe chair said that he would “wholeheartedly” support the government from the backbenches, while championing his constituency of Harlow.

Writing the chair of Harlow’s Conservative Association, Michael Garnett, Halfon explained his decision to step back from front line politics with a fantastical reference. 

"Political life, while fulfilling, has its ups and downs,” he wrote.

"At these times, I read J.R.R. Tolkien both as a great source of comfort, but also for some good advice.

"As I move towards stepping down at the General Election, I am reminded of what Gandalf said to Frodo Baggins after the defeat of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings: ‘I am with you at present...but soon I shall not be. I am not coming to the Shire... my time is over: it is

no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so. And as for you, my dear friends, you will need no help… among the great you are, and I have no longer any fear at all for any of you.’

“Although I often feel more like the character Bilbo Baggins than Gandalf, I believe these words have great resonance, and perfectly capture my feelings as I move onto my next journey in life.”

Harlow is the 63rd Conservative MP who has announced plans to leave parliament at the next election amid growing pessimism over the party’s future.

Also on Tuesday, James Heappy, minister for the armed forces, followed through on a previously announced plan and resigned.

"A painful decision but the next election is the time for me to step away from politics, prioritise my family and pursue a new career,” he said.

“I’ll forever be grateful for the incredible opportunity to serve this amazing constituency in Westminster.”

Halfon, who has been the MP for Harlow since 2010, previously served as minister without portfolio, deputy chairman of the Conservative party, and the political director of Conservative Friends of Israel.

Writing for The Telegraph in 2016, he said one of his key motivations in politics was, “unashamed support for the State of Israel, as the only real democracy and progressive force in the Middle East.”

Halfon added: “My views on these things have been shaped by my background. My Father came to England - an immigrant - an Italian Jew from Libya. My late Grandfather had his home and business stolen by Colonel Gadaffi.

"My mother’s family - though being a number of generations here originally escaped oppression from Russia and Eastern Europe. Other family members were put in Bergen-Belsen.”

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