Veteran Cabinet minister Michael Gove has become the latest high-profile Tory MP to announce that he will not stand at the July 4 General Election.

The Housing Secretary cited the “toll” of public office as he said it was time to let “a new generation lead” following a political career spanning nearly 20 years.

Mr Gove, who has been MP for Surrey Heath since 2005, joins a growing parliamentary exodus coming mainly from the Conservative Party as it languishes behind Labour in the polls.

In a letter to his constituency chairman posted on X, formerly Twitter, he said: “I know the toll office can take, as do those closest to me. No-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.”

A post-war record of nearly 80 Conservative MPs have stepped down ahead of the election.

The total number not seeking re-election on July 4 hit 78 on Friday, surpassing the previous high of 72 who quit prior to Sir Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide victory for Labour.

Mr Gove conceded he had “undoubtedly made mistakes” throughout his political career, but said he had always “tried to be a voice for those who have been overlooked and undervalued”.

Thanks were also paid to Lord David Cameron, Theresa May, and his sometime ally, sometime rival Boris Johnson – all of whose Cabinets he served in.

In a show of support for Rishi Sunak as campaigning for the election gets under way, he added: “We have a Prime Minister who I know exemplifies the patriotism, hard work, sense of selfless service and clarity of purpose which are the very best virtues of our party.

“He also has the policies which will guarantee a brighter, more prosperous future.”

The Prime Minister’s decision to call a summer election in a rain-soaked statement outside Number 10 surprised many in Westminster, where an autumn poll was widely expected.

Rishi Sunak visits Lancashire and County Durham
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The news has caused disquiet among some Tory MPs fearful of losing their jobs, and some ministers are said to have voiced concerns privately about the decision.

A political survivalist whose career has been marked by numerous comebacks to the front line, Mr Gove first entered Lord Cameron’s Cabinet as education secretary before siding against him on the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum.

He then backed Mr Johnson to become the new Conservative leader before launching his own unsuccessful bid for the top job.

When Mrs May took office, he spent a spell in the political wilderness before returning as environment secretary after she lost the Conservative majority in 2017 – he then joined Mr Johnson’s top team following the 2019 election.

Mr Gove was sacked by Mr Johnson after telling the then-prime minister that his time in Downing Street was up as the government fell apart in 2022.

But he returned after to Cabinet throwing his weight behind Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign.

Mr Gove is among the most high-profile members of the Conservative Party to call time on their parliamentary careers.

His announcement was shortly followed by arch Brexiteer and former Commons leader Dame Andrea Leadsom, who said that she was standing down after “careful reflection”, but gave no detail about the reasons for her decision.

Former PM Mrs May, former ministers Sir David Evennett, Greg Clark and Sir John Redwood, and former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are also among those to confirm they are not running.