Steerpike Steerpike

Another by-election looms for Rishi

Conservative MP Scott Benton. Credit: Beresford Hodge/PA Archive/PA Images

Poor Rishi Sunak just can’t catch a break. Every time he tries to establish a new narrative, one of his MPs triggers a by-election that gets us talking about the same old Tory woes. Today it’s the turn of Blackpool backbencher Scott Benton. He was the MP caught on camera by the Times in April, allegedly boasting about lobbying ministers for cash to a gambling firm. Since then he has sat as an independent MP, pending an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and subsequent approval by the Standards Committee.

Today their verdict was published and it doesn’t make for happy reading. Benton is facing a 35-day suspension from the Commons. That is much higher than the minimum 10-day suspension needed to trigger the recall process, though much less than the 100-day sanction slapped on Boris Johnson earlier this year. If MPs agree with the committee’s findings, it will mean a recall petition and a likely by-election in 2024. Benton won Blackpool South in 2019 off Labour with a majority of just 3,690: a figure that looks very much reversible in the current climate.

A new year but the same old woes: how many more by-elections will we see before 2024 is out?

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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