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Sunak faces fresh by-election headache after standards body recommends six week suspension for Tory MP Peter Bone
16 October 2023, 11:39 | Updated: 16 October 2023, 13:02
Rishi Sunak faces another by-election headache after a panel recommended Tory MP Peter Bone should be suspended for six weeks for bullying and sexual misconduct allegations.
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The Wellingborough MP "committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct" against a staff member in 2012 and 2013, the standards watchdog said.
Parliament's Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme found he indecently exposed himself on a trip overseas and upheld five bullying accusations.
The complainant was "trapped" in a room with Bone in Madrid when he deliberately exposed himself, it was said.
He "verbally belittled", "humiliated" and "struck and threw things" at the complainant. The staff member made a complaint in October 2021, four years after they lodged one with the Conservative Party.
Bone was also found to have imposed an "unwanted and humiliating ritual" where he told the complainant to put his hands on his lap and pressurised him to give him a massage.
The complainant said he felt like a "broken shell" and had to give up his political career. He said he has suffered a "long-lasting negative impact on his life" and has anxiety.
A suspension, which was recommended by the Independent Expert Panel, could trigger a by-election for his seat.
Bone responded on X: "Today the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) has published a report finding me guilty of misconduct. As I have maintained throughout these proceedings, none of the misconduct allegations against me ever took place. They are false and untrue claims. They are without foundation.
Below is my statement on the publication of the IEP report today. pic.twitter.com/nuShAGPlh7— Peter Bone MP (@PeterBoneUK) October 16, 2023
"The allegations by an ex-employee refer to events of more than 10 years ago that spanned no more than a few months. The complainant first made the allegations years after they left my employment. They did not raise them at any time during their employment, either in writing or verbally with me, nor with their line managers.
"I am not permitted under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) process to fully respond to the allegations in public. Nor can I detail my views on the huge inconsistencies and lack of evidence in the allegations, or highlight areas that proved the allegations were factually false.
"However I can say that the allegations are the only allegations at all made against me throughout my work as an MP and beyond. Witness statements were submitted from ten employees (current and former) of the highest integrity, testifying to the professional, accommodating and friendly place my office is to work. Many others would be prepared to testify the same."
He described the investigation by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme as "flawed" and "procedurally unfair" and had acted beyond its powers.
The suspension will need to be approved by his colleagues in the Commons, and a recall petition will be triggered if the punishment is upheld.
That could lead to a by-election - the latest in a series of bruising votes Sunak has gone through in his time as leader.
He already has to try and hold onto Mid-Bedfordshire after Nadine Dorries' resignation, as well as the Tamworth seat formerly held by Chris Pincher, the MP at the centre of a storm that led to Boris Johnson resigning as PM.
Both votes will be held on Thursday.