Sir Bob Neill, the Conservative MP for Bromley & Chislehurst and former London Assembly member, has announced he is to stand down at the next general election and bring to an end half a century as an elected politician in London government.
In a letter to his constituency chairman, Neill confirmed that “after a great deal of thought” he had concluded that the time had come for him to spend more time supporting his wife, who is recovering from a stroke.
Neill notes in his letter that in May it will be 50 years since he was first elected as a Conservative councillor: the Ilford-born politician served on Havering Council and as Romford’s representative on the old Greater London Council prior to its abolition in 1986.
It will also be 24 years since he became one of the first intake of Assembly members, winning the Bexley & Bromley constituency for his party in May 2000 and again in May 2004, after which he led the Tory group for two years. He was elected to Parliament in June 2006 in the by-election that followed the death of predecessor, Eric Forth.
Neill’s decision is a setback for his party’s forthcoming campaign to win the newly-formed Bromley & Biggin Hill seat – a partial successor to Bromley & Chislehurst, created due to boundary changes – given his long local service and reputation as a serious and diligent MP, respected cross-party as a former communities and local government minister and, currently, as chair of the House of Commons justice select committee. He was knighted in 2020.
A barrister, Neill has been critical of cuts to the legal aid budget and is also a champion of the arts in London, including of late as an outspoken critic of the government’s treatment of English National Opera. His wife is a former opera singer and performer.
The departure of Neill, 71, will be a loss to the moderate wing of Conservatism amid the party’s internal factional struggles and its leadership’s sharp swing to the populist Right in an attempt to recover its poor position in national opinion polls.
Neill was a firm opponent of Brexit and one of a group of Tory MPs who defied his party whip during the parliamentary struggles that followed the 2016 referendum outcome. His September 2020 question to the then Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis led to the admission that the Internal Market Bill would involve the government breaking international law.
YouGov’s recent MRP national poll found that Bromley & Biggin Hill was likely to be won by Labour by a narrow margin in a part of outer London where a long Conservative ascendancy has been being eroded in recent years. In his letter, Neill pledged his “full support” to Rishi Sunak and promised to remain active on behalf of his constituents until the current Parliament is dissolved, and to back his successor as candidate, once selected.
Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X/Twitter: OnLondon and Dave Hill. Full disclosure: Bob Neill was one of three London politicians who appeared in a short film endorsing On London’s 2018 crowdfunding campaign.