WELLS MP James Heappey has today announced he will not stand for re-election at the forthcoming general election to “prioritise his family and pursue another career”.

James Heappey has served as the Member of Parliament for Wells since 2015 – having won three consecutive general elections – and as Minister for the Armed Forces in His Majesty’s Government for the past four-and-a-half years.

Mr Heappey described the decision as “painful” but believes it is time to prioritise his family and pursue another career.

He added: “After much reflection, I have taken the painful decision not to stand as a candidate in the next general election.

“The opportunity to serve the communities within the Wells Constituency for the last nine years has been the greatest honour of my life. However, I have concluded now is the time to step away from politics.

“Until the next election, my constituents can be assured of my full commitment to our community.

"I will make each of my remaining days in Westminster count in the service of my amazing constituency and I shall be forever grateful to my constituents for bestowing on me the opportunity to do so.

“In the meantime, I will support Rishi Sunak as our party leader and Prime Minister in Government, until such time as he wishes me to step down, and then from the backbenches.”

A spokesperson for the MP said: “In nine years representing the community, Mr Heappey has campaigned for many local causes, including increased access to superfast broadband – which has increased to 96.2 per cent of properties, up from 62 per cent in 2015 – investment in towns and villages, improved educational standards and supporting the thriving tourism sector.

“As a result of the Government’s Town Deal Fund, Glastonbury has received £26 million for transformational economic growth in the shape of brilliant projects, including the redevelopment of the Baily’s building and The Red Brick Building Centre.

“The tourism industry across Shepton, Wells, Burnham, Cheddar and Glastonbury also continues to flourish.

“In Mr Heappey’s maiden speech back in 2015, he spoke about his pride in Somerset’s small business sector making its name in global markets, local farmers producing the very best cider and cheese and the thriving tourism industry.

“Nine years later, Mr Heappey shared that it has been his ‘greatest honour’ to have represented Somerset – the best county in the country.”

Mr Heappey had been hotly tipped to succeed Ben Wallace as defence secretary following his resignation last year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak instead gave the Cabinet post to Grant Shapps, who has not had military experience.

Mr Heappey adds his name to a growing list of Tory MPs to announce they are to leave Parliament, with former prime minister Theresa May and former party chairman Sir Brandon Lewis some of the most recent additions.

Speaking at his party’s spring conference in York, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey told the PA news agency: “The number of MPs running away from the election is extraordinary. And a lot of them are running away from the Liberal Democrats because they know that we can beat them in those seats.”

He said his party is “determined to beat lots of Conservative MPs up and down the country” as he expressed optimism about doing so “across the whole blue wall, where it’s a Liberal Democrat-Conservative fight”.

Mr Sunak on Thursday ruled out holding an election on May 2 to coincide with local elections, having previously indicated he will send the country to the polls in the latter half of 2024.