As MPs returning to Westminster tomorrow open their letters from Sir Thomas Legg with a verdict on their expenses claims of the last five years, there will be renewed speculation as to whether a further tranche of MPs will now opt to stand down at the next general election.
I therefore thought this an opportune moment to take stock of where things stand at the moment in terms of Conservative MPs who will not be seeking re-election.
As of today, the following 17 MPs elected as Conservatives (most of whom are retiring, but several of whom may seek re-election under a different banner) have already had new Conservative PPCs selected in their place:
Peter Atkinson - Hexham - - > Guy Opperman
Tim Boswell - Daventry - - > Chris Heaton-Harris
Angela Browning - Tiverton and Honiton - - > Neil Parish
Sir John Butterfill - Bournemouth West - - > Conor Burns
Derek Conway - Old Bexley and Sidcup - - > James Brokenshire MP
David Curry - Skipton and Ripon - - > Julian Smith
Quentin Davies - Grantham and Stamford - - > Nicholas Boles
Michael Jack - Fylde - - > Mark Menzies
Michael Howard - Folkestone and Hythe - - > Damian Collins
Humfrey Malins - Woking - - > Jonathan Lord
Michael Mates - Hampshire East - - > Damian Hinds
Malcolm Moss - Cambridgeshire North East - - > Steve Barclay
Andrew Pelling - Croydon Central - - > Gavin Barwell
Sir Michael Spicer - Worcestershire West - - > Harriett Baldwin
Bob Spink - Castle Point - - > Rebecca Harris
Anthony Steen - Totnes - - > Sarah Wollaston
Ann Widdecombe - Maidstone and the Weald - - > Helen Grant
And the following 14 MPs have announced they will stand down at the election, but in seats which are yet to select a new candidate:
Michael Ancram - Devizes - nominations close on October 12th
Christopher Fraser - Norfolk South West - selecting on October 24th
Paul Goodman - Wycombe - nominations to re-open after process suspended
Douglas Hogg - Sleaford and North Hykeham - selecting on October 18th
John Horam - Orpington (not yet officially confirmed) - nominations yet to open
Julie Kirkbride - Bromsgrove - nominations yet to open
Jacqui Lait - Beckenham - nominations yet to open
Sir Michael Lord - Suffolk Central and Ipswich North - nominations close on October 12th
Andrew Mackay - Bracknell - selecting on October 17th
David Maclean - Penrith and the Border - selecting on October 25th
Ian Taylor - Esher and Walton - selecting on November 21st
Sir Peter Viggers - Gosport - nominations close on October 12th
Ann Winterton - Congleton - nominations close on October 12th
Sir Nicholas Winterton - Macclesfield - selected in October 17th
Additionally, there is Ryedale MP John Greenway who has been left seatless, having lost out in the race with Anne McIntosh for the newly drawn Thirsk and Malton constituency; and John Bercow who will contest Buckingham as "Speaker seeking re-election", but not opposed by the Conservatives. Then, aside from the two Conservative MPs who held previously Tory seats at by-elections, there are the two MPs who gained seats at by-elections, Edward Timpson and Chloe Smith.
This all means that currently we can only expect 167 existing Conservative MPs to be seeking re-election, with more of those expected to call it a day and make way for someone else before the general election.
So who else might yet step down?
In this post in January, I identified what were then the 45 most senior Conservative MPs in terms of age - ie the 21 who had already reached 65 and the 24 others who were already 60, or turning 60 this year.
13 of those 45 have since announced their intention to step down at the next election, so below is the list of the remaining 32 (with their age as of today).
I repeat the point I made before that the experience of many older MPs is indispensable and that we are in no way suggesting that there should be an age limit to being an MP or that those listed below are not carrying out their parliamentary duties with gusto. However, as demonstrated by the reduction in the length of this list by almost a third in nine months, it is inevitable that retirements are most likely to come from among the senior ranks.
As before, a number of the below will have already been re-adopted to fight the next election, so if you can confirm that this is the case for any of those for whom I have not noted that to be so, please email me and I will point that out.
79 - Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)
72 - Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden) Re-selected in 2008
70 - Sir Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire South) Re-selected
69 - John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal)
69 - Bill Cash (Stone)
69 - Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
68 - Sir George Young (Hampshire North West) Re-adopted
67 - Angela Watkinson (Upminster) Adopted for Upminster and Hornchurch
67 - Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling) Re-adopted
67 - Brian Binley (Northampton South) Adopted for the redrawn Northampton South seat
66 - Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) Re-selected
66 - John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) Standing again
66 - Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden)
66 - Roger Gale (Thanet North)
66 - David Wilshire (Spelthorne) Re-selected
65 - Peter Bottomley (Worthing West)
64 - Tim Yeo (Suffolk South) Standing again
64 - Robert Key (Salisbury) Re-adopted
64 - Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) Re-adopted after surviving confidence vote
63 - Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley)
63 - Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) Adopted for Kensington
63 - Richard Spring (Suffolk West)
62 - Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
62 - Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)
61 - Nicholas Soames (Sussex Mid)
61 - Robert Walter (Dorset North)
60 - David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) Re-adopted
60 - Keith Simpson (Norfolk Mid) Adopted for Broadland
60 - David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) Re-selected
60 - James Paice (Cambridgeshire South East)
60 - Greg Knight (Yorkshire East)
60 - David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) Re-selected