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Disgraced ex-Tory MP Peter Bone’s partner chosen to run as his replacement in Wellingborough by-election | Politics News

The partner of disgraced ex-Tory MP Peter Bone has been chosen as the Conservative candidate to replace him in the Wellingborough by-election.

Helen Harrison, who is a Conservative councillor in Wellingborough’s North Northamptonshire area, was selected by members of the party on Sunday afternoon, according to party chair Richard Holden.

An election is being held after Mr Bone was found by parliament to have subjected a staff member to bullying and sexual misconduct. He has denied the allegations.

Mr Bone has had the whip suspended from him, meaning he sits as an independent MP in the Commons, rather than a Conservative one.

However, he has been seen campaigning with the party despite the suspension.

His constituents voted to recall him as part of a recall petition, and so a by-election will be held, although a date has not yet been confirmed.

Mr Bone is allowed to stand in the vote if he chooses, but it is not clear if he will.

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Ex-Tory MP Scott Benton to appeal proposed suspension over lobbying scandal | Politics News

Former Conservative MP Scott Benton has said he will appeal his recommended suspension from parliament and intends to make a formal complaint over it.

The Blackpool MP was suspended from the parliamentary Tory party in April after being caught in an undercover sting by The Times suggesting he would be willing to break lobbying rules for money.

Following an investigation into the matter, the Committee on Standards on Thursday recommended a 35-day suspension from the House of Commons, paving the way for a potential by-election.

The committee said Mr Benton committed an “extremely serious breach” of the rules by giving the message “he was corrupt and ‘for sale’ and that so were many other Members of the House”.

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Responding for the first time to the Standards report, Mr Benton said: “I will today be submitting a formal complaint to the House Authorities, as well as appealing the decision of the committee in due course.”

In his statement, Mr Benton claimed that the report’s findings had been leaked to journalists the night before it was due to be published.

He said while he was “sworn to secrecy” and told he could only read the judgement an hour before it would be made public on Thursday morning, the committee “did not adhere to its own standards and principles”.

He said: “The night before the report was published, people on the Committee on Standards leaked contents of the report to a journalist and I was contacted on the evening before publication repeatedly by members of the press. This was not the first such leak whilst the investigation was taking place.

“This process is designed to be open, fair, honest and transparent so the public and MPs can have trust in the process.

“This trust has been breached by Members of the Committee. I can’t have faith in a standards process that doesn’t adhere to its own ethics, standards and principles.”

He claimed that the report into his conduct “makes several pivotal statements that are completely factually inaccurate”.

“If those that judge MPs are not being open minded, fair and proportionate in the way that they are handling evidence or examining witnesses, our democracy is under threat,” he said.

Read more:
What is lobbying and which MPs have second jobs?

Mr Benton will submit an appeal to the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), the body that sits above the Parliamentary Standards Committee.

It kicks the potential for a by-election into the long-grass, as the IEP will now review the standards committee’s findings before any action is taken.

A suspension of more than 10 days – if passed by a vote in the Commons – means that a recall petition is triggered, paving the way for a by-election if 10% of constituents sign it.

Mr Benton was elected as the Tory MP for Blackpool South in 2019, and has a majority of just 3,690. It had been a Labour seat since 1997 – but was Conservative before that

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both overturned five-figure majorities in recent by-elections.

The committee highlighted aggravating factors in their decision about Mr Benton – including him providing an “incomplete and incorrect picture of what had transpired”.

They also noted that it was a “repeat offence, or indication that the offence was part of a pattern of behaviour”.

Mr Benton met undercover reporters from The Times who were posing as employees of a fake lobbying company.

The chair of the all-party parliamentary group for betting and gaming suggested he would be happy to be paid between £2,000 and £4,000 a month to help the fake company – complete with a logo, website and office addresses in London and Chennai in India.

There are strict rules that prevent MPs from carrying out paid lobbying or advising how to influence parliament.

Mr Benton ultimately did not accept any financial payment arising from the meeting.

Ex-Tory MP Chris Pincher asked to ‘help’ PM by quitting parliament | Politics News

Disgraced ex-MP Chris Pincher was urged by Tory high command to “help the prime minister” by quitting parliament now so the by-election in his Tamworth constituency could be held on the same day as the Mid Bedfordshire poll.

After Mr Pincher formally resigned as an MP following his failed appeal against an eight-week Commons suspension for drunken “groping”, senior Conservative MPs told Sky News they expected the by-election for his seat to take place on 19 October.

That means voters in Tamworth – where Mr Pincher had a 19,634 majority over Labour in 2019 – will go the polls on the same day as those in Mid Beds, where the Tories will defend a 24,664 majority won by Nadine Dorries at the last election.

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“That was the plan,” a senior Conservative MP with knowledge of the by-election process told Sky News. “It makes sense to hold both these difficult by-elections on the same day.

“It was pointed out to Chris that as a former deputy chief whip, he would appreciate that it would help the prime minister if he would go now and not prolong the agony by going through a recall petition, which he had no chance of winning, and land us with another by-election further down the road.”

A senior government minister also told Sky News: “We expect Tamworth to be held on 19 October. As the prime minister has said, mid-term by-elections for incumbent governments are always difficult.”

Top Tories, including chief whip Simon Hart and party chairman Greg Hands, wanted both by-elections to be held with a decent interval after the party’s conference – taking place between 1 and 4 October – and to stretch the resources of their Labour and Liberal Democrat opponents.

It’s thought the Conservatives also want to get both polls out of the way quickly because they’re not confident of winning either, given the perception of sleaze that Mr Pincher and Ms Dorries have created for the party and the embattled Rishi Sunak.

Chris Pincher has a large majority when the seat was last up for election in 2019.
Chris Pincher had a large majority when the seat was last up for election in 2019

Tamworth has been described by political guru Professor Sir John Curtice as a “totemic target” for Labour. That’s because a year before Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide, the party won a spectacular by-election victory in the seat when it was called South East Staffordshire.

The swing then was 22% and this time, a year before an election expected next autumn, Labour needs a 21% swing to win the seat.

It’s a big ask – although in July, Labour achieved a 23.7% swing in Selby and Ainsty, where it only needed an 18% swing for victory.

The Tamworth poll comes after Mr Pincher lost his appeal against a ruling by the Standards Committee of MPs that he “groped” two people at the Tory “holy of holies”, the Carlton Club, on 29 June last year, and was therefore guilty of an abuse of power.

Read more:
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His appeal against the eight-week suspension, which he claimed was “disproportionate”, was rejected by an independent expert panel, meaning he would have faced a recall petition in his constituency, requiring only 10% of voters to call for him to go.

“We consider that the appellant’s arguments are misconceived or erroneous,” the panel concluded as it upheld the Standards Committee’s recommendation. “The sanction is far from being arbitrary or disproportionate.”

Boris Johnson and Chris Pincher
Mr Pincher was blamed by many for the eventual downfall of Boris Johnson.

The Pincher scandal was one of the “three Ps” that brought down Boris Johnson – the other two being (Owen) Paterson and partygate. Mr Johnson was also said to have remarked to Tory colleagues: “Pincher by name, pincher by nature.”

That was in 2020, after former Olympic rower Alex Story claimed in 2017 that Mr Pincher made an unwanted pass at him when he was a 26-year-old Tory activist back in 2001 “like a pound shop Harvey Weinstein”.

That claim led Mr Pincher to resign as a junior government whip, though he was cleared of wrongdoing by a party investigation. He later served as Europe minister and housing minister.

But given the embarrassment Mr Pincher has caused the Conservative Party, it’s no wonder Tory MPs believe the least he could now was to help the prime minster out.