South Ribble MP Seema Kennedy will not be contesting the seat at the next general election - whenever it comes.
Rumours began to circulate earlier this evening (Thursday) that the Tory member - who has represented the constituency since 2015 - would not be standing again, following a tweet by the editor of the Conservative Home website, Mark Wallace.
Ms. Kennedy has now confirmed her forthcoming departure from the Commons - on the same day that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, launched a third bid for a pre-Christmas poll on 12th December. The move will put pressure on the Conservative constituency party in South Ribble to find a new candidate in the event of an imminent poll.
The 45-year-old said she would be taking the opportunity to "focus on other priorities” in her life, after “a great deal of thought and reflection”.
Following the general election in May 2017, Ms. Kennedy was appointed private parliamentary secretary to the then Prime Minister, Theresa May. She remained in the role as Mrs. May became increasingly embattled, both by the loss of her majority and her failed attempts to get her Brexit deal approved by parliament.
New Statesman political correspondent Patrick Maguire described her being “closer to May than almost anybody else”.
Ms. Kennedy became a junior health minister in April this year, before moving to the Home Office in July - again as a parliamentary under-secretary.
“It has been a huge privilege to have served as the Member of Parliament for the best place to live in the UK,” she said.
“Working alongside dedicated councillors, we have advanced the Lancashire City Deal, secured £15.8 million in funding to improve flood defences in Penwortham and got £25m for Leyland to raise living standards and invest in infrastructure, technology, skills and culture.
“It has been a great honour to serve my country as a minister for public health and immigration, and to be the first female PPS to a Conservative Prime Minister.
“However, the work of which I am most proud is that which I began with the late Jo Cox on our cross-party commission on loneliness. To achieve the world’s first Minister for Loneliness and millions of pounds of funding to help tackle this scourge on our society is something that continues to transform our country’s attitude and response to this issue.
“However, after a great deal of thought and reflection, I have decided not to stand as a candidate at the next general election. It is now time for me to focus on other priorities in my life. I want to thank everyone for the support they have given me and I wish my successor the very best,” Ms. Kennedy added.
Her current majority from the 2017 election is 7,421, when she became the first candidate in the history of the South Ribble constituency to win over half of the vote.
The seat was held by a Conservative from its creation in 1983 until the New Labour landslide in 1997. It remained in Labour hands - represented by the current mayor of Preston, David Borrow - until turning blue again in 2010, when it was secured by Ms. Kennedy’s predecessor, Lorraine Fulbrook.