Stuart Randall, the 58-year-old MP for Kingston upon Hull West for the past 14 years, said yesterday that he was standing down "to spend more time with his family". Mr Randall, whose wife, Gillian, worked as his secretary, has three grown-up daughters and a grandson.
Mr Randall's 11th-hour withdrawal will put the spotlight on the Hull party. Mr Randall has also been at odds with John Prescott, Labour's deputy leader, over the running of the local council which Mr Prescott has strongly defended.
Mr Randall said that the lateness of the decision was as a result of "thinking about my future over the Easter weekend". It means that the Hull West and Hessle party, which has been in dispute with the MP for some years, will not be able to choose its own candidate because there is not time to run a ballot among local party members. Indeed, had Mr Randall announced the decision straight after Easter there would have been time for a local ballot and the delay appears to have been the result of an agreement between the national party and Mr Randall.
The National Executive Committee's by-election panel will meet "later this week" to decide whether to hold a ballot but this is now highly unlikely.
Last year, a local paper, the Hull Daily Mail ran a front-page story saying that Mr Randall "had accused the city council of being corrupt". Leaked minutes revealed that Mr Randall had told local Labour members that the council "had a poor local reputation" and was "corrupt".
The Labour Party launched an investigation into the allegations over a deal through which a developer, Keepmoat, was given first refusal over all housing development land in the area. Subsequently, the chairman of housing, John Black, accused Mr Randall of not being a suitable person to be an MP and Mr Randall issued a writ for libel against him. A senior local councillor has also been the subject of paedophile allegations and the police have been called in over expenses claims by two councillors.