Rishi Sunak faces fresh nightmare by-election after Blackpool South MP Scott Benton loses suspension appeal

20 February 2024, 11:10 | Updated: 20 February 2024, 13:23

Rishi Sunak faces another by-election after Scott Benton lost his appeal against a 35-day suspension
Rishi Sunak faces another by-election after Scott Benton lost his appeal against a 35-day suspension. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Rishi Sunak faces another by-election headache as Scott Benton lost his appeal against his 35 day Commons ban.

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Such a lengthy suspension from the Commons triggers a recall petition that could lead to a by-election for his Blackpool South seat.

It comes after a series of devastating blows in by-elections that have left Mr Sunak's party staring down the barrel of a massive defeat in the future general election.

The Commons standards watchdog previously concluded that Mr Benton had committed a "very serious breach" of lobbying rules.

Read more: Rishi Sunak begs frustrated Tories 'not to put Starmer in power' after party suffers double by-election disaster

He had been filmed offering to lobby ministers for a fake company.

It was recommended that MPs back a 35-day suspension, which Mr Benton attempted to appeal.

But the Independent Expert Panel said on Tuesday it was upholding the suspension.

"Mr Benton referred himself to the Commissioner after details were published in April 2023 of a meeting between Mr Benton and undercover reporters of The Times newspaper who were posing as representatives of a fictitious company," it said in a statement.

Read more: Rishi Sunak suffers double by-election nightmare as Labour overturn massive majorities in Wellingborough and Kingswood

"The Committee found, in a report published on 14 December 2023 that in this meeting, Mr Benton made statements that indicated he had breached the House’s rules in the past, would be willing to breach or circumvent rules again on behalf of the company in return for payment and that other Members behaved in a similar manner.

"Mr Benton appealed the Committee’s decision that he had breached the Code of Conduct and their decision on sanction. The IEP sub-panel dismissed Mr Benton’s appeal and his sanction of 35 days suspension, with the concomitant loss of salary, stands."

It added: "It is for the Government to decide when the House will consider the Committee's recommendation to suspend Mr Benton. Under rules agreed by the House on 18 October 2022 it cannot be amended or debated, but it is possible for the House to vote against the recommendation."

The Tories lost two by-elections on the same day last week, conceding Kingswood and and Wellingborough to Labour.

Sir Keir Starmer's party achieved a 28.5% swing in the latter.

Any by-election in Blackpool South will prove tough for the Tories given Mr Benton's slim majority of 3,690.

Mr Benton said: "I am deeply disappointed by the decision of the Appeal Panel to uphold the Standards Committee's unjust findings against me.

"The entire process has been prone to regular leaks at every stage, with journalists knowing the details throughout. This lack of integrity throughout the process has formed an inescapable appearance of bias."