UK PM Rishi Sunak faces challenge as 78 MPs quit general elections race

London : After UK Prime Minister (PM) Rishi Sunak called a surprise early election on July 4, at least 78 Members of Parliament (MPs) of his Conservative Party have announced their decision not to stand for re-election.

On Friday, UK cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom also announced their decision not to contest the summer election, taking the number of party members quitting the race to as many as 78.

In a letter on Friday, Gove announced stepping down as MP and also added that he would not be contesting the general elections.

“After nearly twenty years serving the wonderful people of Surrey Heath and over a decade in Cabinet across five government departments, I have today taken the decision to step down as a Member of Parliament,” Gove said in a post on microblogging site X.

Shortly after Gove, his cabinet colleague, Andrea Leadsom, also announced the decision not to contest the polls.

“After careful reflection, I have decided not to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming election.”

In his letter, Housing Minister Gove wrote that he knew “the toll office can take, as do those closest to meâ€æNo one in politics is a conscript. We are volunteers who willingly choose our fate. And the chance to serve is wonderful. But there comes a moment when you know that it is time to leave. That a new generation should lead.”

Former prime minister Theresa May is also among the senior MPs stepping away, with former defence minister Ben Wallace already having announced his decision to leave frontline politics.

Meanwhile, according to sources, Sunak is taking an “unusual step” of a day away from public events over the first weekend of the election campaign and instead will spend it in discussion on election strategy with his closest advisers.

The reports prompted Opposition Labour MP Stella Creasy to post on social media, “Sunak is already in need of a duvet day. Britain is already in need of a different government.”

The Labour Party is expected to start their campaign on a high pitch as a recent pre-poll survey by YouGov opinion poll showed the party leading with 44 per cent support than that of just 22 per cent for the Conservative Party.