The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Michael Portillo’s election defeat in 1997, unseated on a swing of 17.4 percentage points shortly after 3am on 2 May that year, has become synonymous with the shock moment that a major political big beast loses their seat. But following a landslide victory for Labour in the 2024 general election, the “Portillo moments” started coming thick and fast. Who are the major figures who have lost their seats in the 2024 general election?

As of 7am on Friday, eight cabinet ministers had lost their seats, including:

  • Penny Mordaunt, leader of the Commons

  • Alex Chalk, the justice secretary

  • Grant Shapps, the defence secretary

  • Gillian Keegan, the education secretary

  • David TC Davies, the Welsh secretary

  • Michelle Donelan, the science secretary

  • Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary

  • Mark Harper, the transport secretary

A further four senior ministers who attend cabinet were also ousted

  • Johnny Mercer, the veterans minister

  • Simon Hart, the chief whip

  • Victoria Prentis, the attorney general

  • Michael Tomlinson, illegal immigration minister

Liz Truss

Seat South West Norfolk
Majority in 2019 26,195
Result Labour gain

Liz Truss had a whopping majority in South West Norfolk, one of the truest of true blue constituencies in the UK. Her premiership – all 45 days of it – may famously not have lasted as long as an iceberg lettuce, but she had hoped that her time in parliament would carry on. So when rumours started to fly, after about 4.30am on Friday, that she had lost her seat there were gasps of disbelief. It took until a little before 7am for her defeat to be confirmed, with people slow-clapping as they waited to hear results. She lost to Labour’s Terry Jermy, who took 11,847 votes to Truss’s 11,217 – a slim majority of 630, and a swing of 26%.

A sizeable Reform vote in the seat worked against her as did an independent candidate, former army officer James Bagge, who set the cat among the pigeons as the leader of the so-called Turnip Taliban. But it was, perhaps, the enduring impact of her disastrous mini-budget unleashed on the economy that did for the former PM in the end.

Penny Mordaunt

Seat Portsmouth North
Majority in 2019 15,780
Result Labour gain

Penny Mordaunt’s dreams of shaping the future of the Conservative party as its leader were ended abruptly in the early hours of Friday morning in one of the biggest shocks of the night. Her Portsmouth North seat – which last fell into Labour hands during Tony Blair’s reign – proved too difficult for her to hold, and went to Labour on a 18% swing. The defeat of the Commons leader will come as a blow to Tory moderates who saw her as a potential successor to Rishi Sunak.

Mordaunt, who became an MP in 2010, became the UK’s first female defence secretary in the final days of Theresa May’s government. The Royal Navy reservist took part in two leadership contests, but became well known on a national level after receiving plaudits for her ability to carry an extraordinarily heavy sword during King Charles’s coronation.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Seat North East Somerset and Hanham (new constituency)
Majority in 2019 (in North East Somerset) 14,729
Result Labour gain

A picture of Jacob Rees-Mogg lolling on the benches in the Houses of Parliament, eyes closed, became a defining image of the past 14 years of Tory government. But the divisive former business secretary lost his seat in North East Somerset and Hanham to Labour’s Dan Norris – whom Rees-Mogg had unseated during the 2010 election.

Rees-Mogg congratulated the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, on “what seems to be a historic victory”, adding, as his final thought, “from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success. So thank you very much everybody, and good night.”

Gillian Keegan

Seat Chichester
Majority in 2019 21,490
Result Lib Dem gain

The education secretary provided a jaw-dropping moment of election night, becoming one of the first cabinet ministers of the night to lose her seat. Her Chichester seat – which had been held by the Conservatives for 100 years – was targeted relentlessly in the Lib Dems’ almost-surgical campaign, but it was nonetheless only number 103 on their list of targets.

Keegan – who left school at 16 and went on to have a successful business and political career – was appointed to the cabinet as education secretary in 2022. She was no-nonsense in her approach, and will be remembered for her hot mic moment in September 2023, while expressing frustration about the crumbling concrete crisis in schools. “Does anyone ever say: ‘You know what, you’ve done a fucking good job, because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothin’?” she raged. She will be replaced by the Lib Dems’ Jess Brown-Fuller.

Grant Shapps

Seat Welwyn Hatfield
Majority in 2019 10,955
Result Labour gain

The defence secretary has been seen as a safe pair of hands over many media outings for Rishi Sunak – including a sizeable number sporting a lockdown mullet during the coronavirus pandemic. But after 19 years as the MP for Welwyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire, a visibly shaken Shapps lost his seat shortly after 3am on Friday. In his concession speech, he acknowledged that it was “clear tonight that Britain will have a new government in the morning”, and he urged Labour to increase its funding commitment to defence spending. He also had a word of warning for his colleagues who retained their seats, saying divisions within the party meant traditional voters felt unable to vote Conservative, calling the infighting in the Tory party an “indulgent” soap opera. “There is a danger that we now go off on some tangent,” he said.

Shapps had a healthy majority, but a Labour resurgence in the affluent commuter belt has put an end to a career during which the Tory stalwart was put in charge of various government departments including transport, energy, business and a short stint at the Home Office. “I have served in more cabinet posts than most,” he acknowledged, with a wry smile. He will be replaced by Labour’s Andrew Lewin, who got 19,877 votes (41%). Shapps got 16,078 votes (33%).

Lucy Frazer

Seat Ely and East Cambridgeshire (new constituency)
Majority in 2019 (South East Cambridgeshire) 11,490
Result Lib Dem gain

The culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, was yet another cabinet member to lose her seat in Ely and East Cambridgeshire in the early hours of Friday morning. She was defeated by the Liberal Democrats’ Charlotte Cane, who got 17,127 votes to Frazer’s 16,632 – giving the Lib Dems a majority of just 495.

Alex Chalk

Seat Cheltenham
Majority in 2019 981
Result Lib Dem gain

The justice secretary, Alex Chalk, always had an uphill task on his hands, and was defending a relatively slim majority in a seat that has always had a strong Lib Dem presence and has a long tradition of tactical voting. He lost his seat to the Lib Dems’ Max Wilkinson.

The Lib Dems held Cheltenham in the 2005 election and again in 2010 before Chalk took the seat in 2015. The writing was on the wall after a poor set of local election results in May, in which all of the Conservatives’ councillors were wiped out, while the Lib Dem vote grew.

Chalk became the 11th justice secretary in 13 years last year after Dominic Raab resigned over bullying allegations. He was the solicitor general under Boris Johnson, but was part of the mass resignation of ministers that forced the downfall of the former prime minister.

Simon Hart

Seat Caerfyrddin (new constituency)
Majority in 2019 (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) 7,745
Result Plaid Cymru

Cabinet member Simon Hart, Rishi Sunak’s chief whip, was at the sharp end of a very poor night for the Conservatives across Wales and lost his seat in what will be seen as a major blow for the Tories.

Michelle Donelan

Seat Melksham and Devizes (new constituency)
Majority in 2019 (Chippenham) 11,288
Result Lib Dem gain

The science secretary, Michelle Donelan, who was the MP for Chippenham in Wiltshire from 2015 to 2024, lost her bid to become the representative of the new constituency of Melksham and Devizes, which was won by Brian Mathew of the Liberal Democrats. Donelan held three other cabinet positions from 2020 to 2023 under Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

Mark Harper

Seat Forest of Dean
Majority in 2019 15,869
Result Labour gain

The transport secretary was one of Sunak’s most passionate supporters, and was given his cabinet position when the prime minister took office, previously holding several ministerial positions and serving as the chief whip.

Known for leading the Covid Recovery Group of backbench MPs who challenged lockdown restrictions during the pandemic, Harper lost the seat to Labour’s Matt Bishop, a local district councillor. The Forest of Dean was held by Labour under Tony Blair, but has been in Tory hands since Harper won it in 2005, having failed to win it four years earlier.

Greg Hands

Seat Chelsea & Fulham
Majority in 2019 11,241
Result Labour gain

Former Conservative party chair and trade minister Greg Hands had held the seat of Chelsea & Fulham for the Conservatives since it was formed in 2010 having previously represented part of the area as MP for Hammersmith & Fulham from 2005. But this time around Hands, perhaps best known for his heavy-handed jibes, lost out to Labour’s Ben Coleman as a red Labour tide swept across London, which according to some estimates meant the Conservatives completely wiped from inner London for the first time since the 1870s.

Many Labour MPs and supporters will not miss his repeated sharing of a 2010-penned joke letter from the former chief secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne to his successor, which read: “I’m afraid there is no money.” His referral to the letter was so prolific, that there’s even a dedicated X account known as “Greg Hands Letter Counter”.

Robert Buckland

Seat Swindon South (new constituency)
Majority in 2019 (South Swindon) 6,625
Result Labour gain

Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, had become more of a mid-sized beast, rather than a big one, after resigning as Welsh secretary in 2022 when Rishi Sunak became prime minister. However, as a high-profile backbencher his departure is notable, after his Swindon South constituency became the first Labour gain from the Conservatives of the night. He lost to Heidi Alexander, who was a deputy mayor of London for Transport and the Labour MP for Lewisham East from 2010 to 2018.

Buckland, not known as a firebrand, was visibly angry in the moments after the result. “Do we value those who work to bring people together and to come into politics to do something rather than be someone?,” he asked. “Or do we shrug our shoulders and accept politics as a mere circus?”

Michael Fabricant

Seat Lichfield
Majority in 2019 23,628
Result Labour gain

Again, not strictly speaking a Tory big beast, but perhaps one of the most recognisable Conservative figures in the country thanks to his distinctive hairstyle. Fabricant has served as the MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire, formerly Mid Staffordshire, since 1992. He received 16,422 votes, but was pipped to the post by Labour candidate Dave Robertson, who received 17,232, giving Labour a majority of 810.

Thérèse Coffey

Seat Suffolk Coastal
Majority in 2019 20,533
Result Labour gain

Not a key figure in the current cabinet but Thérèse Coffey has been a prominent figure in the Conservatives over the years, serving as environment secretary, health secretary and work and pensions secretary. She was also, lest we forget, a short-lived deputy prime minister from September to October 2022 during the blink-and-you-miss-it premiership of Liz Truss. It was a close-run thing in Suffolk Coastal, with Coffey getting 14,602 votes to Labour’s Jenny Riddell-Carpenter’s 15,672 votes.

Johnny Mercer

Seat Plymouth Moor View
Majority in 2019 12,897
Result Labour gain

The veterans minister, Johnny Mercer, unexpectedly won Plymouth Moor View from Labour in 2015, and has built his majority since. The ex-army captain lost to Labour’s Fred Thomas, a former Royal Marine. Mercer came second, with 12,061 votes, while Thomas received 17,665 votes, securing victory with a 5,604 majority.

Liam Fox

Seat North Somerset
Majority in 2019 17,536
Result: Labour gain

The former defence secretary, trade secretary, party chair and prominent figure on the right enjoyed 53% of the vote in the last election in his rural constituency, which he represented for 32 years. He had served as the MP for North Somerset, formerly Woodspring, since 1992.

But on Friday Fox was beaten by Labour’s Sadik Al-Hassan, a pharmacist, won the seat with a majority of just 639 votes on a swing of 14.82%. During the campaign, Al-Hassan accused Fox of being a part-time politician who had taken “countless second jobs”. Fox, 62, twice unsuccessfully ran for the party leadership in 2005 and 2016.

Jonathan Gullis

Seat Stoke-on-Trent North
Majority in 2019 6,286
Result Labour

Tory deputy chairman Jonathan Gullis – who has made a name for himself during his five years in parliament by railing against everything from free school meals, the Black Lives Matter movement, people who eat avocados and Gary Lineker – won Stoke-on-Trent North in the 2019 general election, as the “red wall” collapsed across the north and Midlands. It was the first time Labour had lost the seat since it was created in 1950, but on Friday morning it was taken back by Labour, with David Williams the new MP for the seat.

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