Sunak facing another by-election as MP loses seat in recall petition

Politics

An MP suspended from the parliamentary Conservative Party has lost his seat in a recall petition, Sky News understands, leaving another by-election for Rishi Sunak to contend with.

The voters of Wellingborough in Northamptonshire have decided they want to choose a new MP after Peter Bone was found by parliament to have subjected a staff member to bullying and sexual misconduct.

Sky News understands 13.2% of constituents signed the recall petition, which means that the Wellingborough constituency is now vacant.

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Mr Bone was suspended from the Commons in October for six weeks – although he returned in time to support the prime minister’s Safety of Rwanda Bill.

The Conservative Party suspended the whip from Mr Bone, meaning he sits as an independent rather than a Tory in the Commons.

However, he was seen campaigning with the party during his suspension.

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In a statement posted on X following the result, Mr Bone said: “The recall petition came about as a result of an inquiry into alleged bullying and misconduct towards an ex-employee which was alleged to have occurred more than 10 years ago. These allegations are totally untrue and without foundation.

“I will have more to say on these matters in the new year. May I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.”

A recall petition is triggered when an MP is suspended from the House of Commons for at least 10 days.

As more than 10% of the constituency’s voters signed it – 7,904 people – a by-election has now been triggered.

The number of registered electors eligible to sign the petition was 79,402, while the number of registered eligible voters who validly signed the petition was 10,505.

Mr Bone has been the MP for Wellingborough in Northamptonshire since 2005, and was re-elected with a majority of 18,540 at the last election in 2019.

The Conservatives have lost a series of by-elections in which they previously held five-figure majorities, including Selby and Ainsty, Mid Bedfordshire, and Somerton and Frome.

A report into Mr Bone’s behaviour found he had “committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct” against a staff member in 2012 and 2013.

Parliament’s behaviour watchdog, the Independent Expert Panel, upheld a previous probe which found Mr Bone had broken the MP’s code of conduct on four counts of bullying and one of sexual misconduct.

He was found to have indecently exposed himself to the complainant in the bathroom of a hotel room during a work trip to Madrid.

Mr Bone has denied the allegations.

Mr Bone will be allowed to stand in the by-election if he so chooses, which will happen when the party which currently holds the seat – the Conservatives – decides.

There is also the possibility of a by-election in Blackpool South after the area’s MP, Scott Benton, was suspended from the parliamentary Tory Party in April after being caught in an undercover sting by The Times suggesting he would be willing to break lobbying rules for money.

Following an investigation into the matter, the Committee on Standards on Thursday recommended a 35-day suspension from the House of Commons, paving the way for a potential by-election.

Mr Benton has said he will appeal his recommended suspension from parliament to the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), the body that sits above the Parliamentary Standards Committee, and that he intends to make a formal complaint over it.

The appeal kicks the potential for a by-election into the long-grass, as the IEP will now review the standards committee’s findings before any action is taken.

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