Blackpool South set for by-election after ex Tory MP Scott Benton suspended from House of Commons

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The MP Scott Benton has been suspended from the House of Commons for 35 days, opening the path to another by-election.

MPs approved a motion to suspend the MP for Blackpool South from the Commons, who was elected as a Conservative but now sits as an independent, following an investigation by parliamentary authorities. The 35-day suspension period is in excess of the 10-day threshold that triggers a recall petition and potentially a by-election.

Mr Benton was found to have breached Commons rules after he was caught by The Times offering to lobby ministers and table parliamentary questions on behalf of gambling investors. He appealed against both the finding and the suspension, but in a report published last week an independent panel upheld the Standards Committee’s original decision, saying there had been “no procedural flaw” in the process.

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The panel also described Mr Benton’s arguments against the recommended suspension as “misconceived or erroneous”, finding the sanction was “neither unreasonable nor disproportionate”. In response, Mr Benton said he was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome, describing the findings as “unjust”.

A further by-election headache in Blackpool South could soon be on the cards for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following recent defeats to Labour in Kingswood and Wellingborough. For this to happen, 10% of eligible voters in the constituency would need to sign a recall petition, which would be open to them for six weeks once instigated by a local returning officer.

If a by-election followed the Conservatives would be defending a slim majority of 3,690 votes over their nearest opponents, Labour, from whom they took the seat in 2019. A by-election in Blackpool South would be the fourth such vote held this year, while defeat would be the 11th time the Government has lost a seat in a by-election since the start of the current Parliament in 2019.

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After Labour’s two victories last week, the outcome of a third by-election, in Rochdale, remains uncertain after the party was forced to withdraw support from its candidate over comments he made about the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds called on Mr Benton to “resign immediately” rather than wait for the outcome of a recall petition. “Scott Benton’s lobbying brought himself, the Conservatives and Parliament into disrepute,” the senior Opposition MP said. “This is indicative of a weak Conservative Prime Minister who promised professionalism, integrity and accountability and has delivered nothing but sleaze, scandal and chaos.

“Scott Benton should save his constituents the upheaval and cost of a recall petition, resign immediately and give people a chance to vote for change with Blackpool born and bred Chris Webb.”

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