Fresh By-Election Headache For Rishi Sunak As Scott Benton Loses Appeal Against 35-Day Commons Ban

The Blackpool South MP was caught in a lobbying sting by The Times.
Beresford Hodge - PA Images via Getty Images

Former Tory MP Scott Benton has lost his appeal against a 35-day House of Commons ban after he was caught in a lobbying sting.

The decision by the Independent Expert Panel means a by-election is on the cards in his Blackpool South seat in a fresh headache for Rishi Sunak.

There will now be a recall petition in the constituency, and if at least 10% of registered voters support it, Benton will be kicked out of parliament.

He was elected in 2019 with a majority of 3,690 and was the seat’s first Conservative MP since 1997.

With Labour continuing to have a substantial lead in the opinion polls, the party will be very confident of re-claiming the seat in any by-election.

Benton was filmed offering to help gambling industry lobbyists in exchange for money.

He was elected as a Tory but had the party whip suspended following the undercover sting operation by The Times in April last year.

In a report published in December, parliament’s standards commissioner said Benton should be kicked out of parliament for 35 days.

The commissioner said Benton “committed a very serious breach” by “repeatedly indicating his willingness to disregard the House’s rules”.

“His comments gave a false impression of the morality of MPs in a way which, if the public were to accept them as accurate, would be corrosive to respect for Parliament and undermine the foundations of our democracy,” it said.

Benton’s appeal claimed that the commissioner’s investigation was both materially and procedurally “flawed”, and that the 35-day ban was disproportionate.

However, the Independent Expert Panel rejected the appeal and concluded: “The 35 day suspension stands.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Benton said the decision was “unjust” because journalists had reported on it.

“The entire process has been prone to regular leaks at every stage, with journalists knowing the details throughout,” he said.

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “Scott Benton should do the decent thing and resign, saving the people of Blackpool South a lengthy recall petition that would leave them without the representation they deserve.

“This is yet another by-election caused by Tory scandal. Britain deserves better than this carousel of Conservative chaos.”


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