By Jonathan Isaby
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A statement has just arrived in my inbox out of the blue from James Arbuthnot, the Conservative MP for North East Hampshire, to the effect that he will not stand as a candidate at the next general election:
"It has been a great privilege to have represented North East Hampshire for the last fourteen years, and before that Wanstead and Woodford for ten. My constituents have been generous and supportive and have taught me much. Their friendship has meant a great deal to Emma and me, and we shall always be grateful to them.
"After a fulfilling career, first as a barrister and then in Parliament, it is now right to move on at a time when I can still take on new challenges. My Chairmanship of the Defence Select Committee, an especially rewarding role, comes to an end at the end of this Parliament. That will be the right moment to step down."
Arbuthnot was MP for Wanstead and Woodfood between 1987 and 1997, but on its abolition ahead of the 1997 election, he was selected to contest North East Hampshire, which he has represented ever since. He served as Opposition Chief Whip throughout William Hague's time as Tory leader.
His announcement comes on the day that new research will be focusing MPs' minds on the effects of the reduction in parliamentary seats that will come with the boundary changes which come into force at the next election.