(Bloomberg) -- Energy Minister Graham Stuart quit UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government as he prepares to face a tight election in the coming months.

Stuart will return to the back benches of the House of Commons in order to focus on serving his constituents in Beverley and Holderness, northern England, the Member of Parliament said Friday in a post on X. Stuart, 62, has been an MP for almost 19 years.

Stuart’s move suggests he may be concerned about his chances of defending his seat at a general election that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated is likely to take place in the second half of the year. With Labour enjoying a lead of 20 or so points in national surveys, pollsters project the Tories will lose scores and possibly hundreds of seats. While Stuart has a majority of more than 20,000, YouGov analysis this month shows the seat may swing to Labour — a prediction backed up by the Electoral Calculus website.

Sunak’s office named Justin Tomlinson, a former junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, as Stuart’s replacement.

Stuart’s resignation adds to the recent departures from government of senior Tories James Heappey and Robert Halfon, who have both said they’ll also stand down as MPs. In a sign many think the Conservatives are on course for a potential drubbing at the general election, Tories are announcing their departure at the fastest pace since the buildup to the 1997 general election, when Tony Blair’s Labour Party ousted the Conservatives after 18 years in power. 

As minister Stuart was responsible for energy security and net zero. In December he attended the United Nations COP28 climate change talks, where he was criticized for flying back and forth between the UK and Dubai during the two week summit. 

He also reportedly clashed with his boss, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho, over her plans to scrap a so-called boiler tax which was designed to drive the uptake of heat pumps. Stuart had warned at the time that the decision left the government at severe legal risk as scrapping the scheme could put Britain’s net zero ambitions in jeopardy, according to the Times. 

--With assistance from Ellen Milligan.

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