PM faces another by-election bloody nose after MP Peter Bone ousted
Happy Christmas, Rishi! PM faces another by-election bloody nose with Tories admitting they are underdogs in contest triggered by voters ousting MP Peter Bone over bullying case
Rishi Sunak is facing another by-election bloody nose as Tories admit they are the underdogs after Peter Bone was ousted from the Commons.
Senior figures have been sounding gloomy after the former Conservative MP’s ejection was confirmed last night.
More than 10 per cent of constituents in Wellingborough voted to recall the long-serving politician in a petition.
It was triggered by the standards watchdog handing him a six-week suspension from Parliament for bullying and sexual misconduct.
The by-election – the date of which will be decided by the government next month – will be a crucial test for Mr Sunak with a general election looming.
Wellingborough has been held by the Conservatives since 2005, when Mr Bone won it from Labour. The former minister secured an 18,500 majority in 2019.
But the margin is smaller than those that Labour overturned in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire in the Autumn. Keir Starmer’s party has been consistently recording double-digit leads in polls.
In a round of interviews this morning, Cabinet minister Mel Stride acknowledged the Tories have ‘ground to make up’ and it would be ‘foolhardy’ to claim they would definitely win.
Rishi Sunak is facing another by-election bloody nose as Tories admit they are the underdogs after Peter Bone (pictured) was ousted from the Commons. Mr Bone still denies the allegations
The by-election – the date of which will be decided by the government next month – will be a crucial test for Mr Sunak with a general election looming
Keir Starmer ‘s party has been consistently recording double-digit leads in polls, including an 18-point advantage in Redfield & Wilton Strategies research this week
But Mr Stride argued that Labour’s national poll lead of about 20 percentage points was actually ‘wafer thin’ because there was no real desire among voters for Sir Keir to take over in Downing Street.
The Work and Pensions Secretary told Times Radio: ‘Yes, we have a fair bit of ground to make up but there is no strong burning passion for Keir Starmer or another Labour government.
‘There is a wide lead in the polls at the moment but it’s very thin.
‘And we will be fighting for every single vote.’
On Sky News he said there was ‘all to play for’ and ‘we will go at it has hard as we possibly can’.
Mr Bone had been sitting as an independent after losing the Conservative whip in the aftermath of the Standards Committee’s ruling, which was endorsed by the whole House. He continues to deny the allegations, and has not ruled out standing as an independent.
Gen Kitchen, Labour’s candidate in Wellingborough, said the recall petition outcome showed that constituents ‘want change’.
Labour chair Anneliese Dodds said: ‘The Conservative Party has presided over 13 years of failure, not least in the professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels that Rishi Sunak promised.
‘Despite serious allegations made against him, Peter Bone has dragged his constituents through a lengthy recall petition rather than doing the right thing and offering his resignation
‘The people of Wellingborough now have the opportunity to vote for a fresh start with Gen Kitchen and the Labour Party.’
At the conclusion of the six-week long Wellingborough recall process, North Northamptonshire Council said 10,505 people agreed that Mr Bone should lose his job as their MP.
The by-election threshold had been set at 7,904 people — a tenth of the 79,046 eligible voters in his constituency.
Parliamentary procedure means the by-election cannot take place before February.
In a statement published on social media, Mr Bone said having a by-election seemed ‘bizarre’ because ‘86.8 per cent of the electorate did not want to remove me from office, nor for there to be a by-election’ – a reference to the constituents who did not sign the petition.
The veteran politician, who has been spotted in Westminster in recent days, said the allegations against him were ‘totally untrue and without foundation’.
Mr Bone was found to have ‘committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct’ against a staff member in 2012 and 2013.
In a round of interviews this morning, Cabinet minister Mel Stride acknowledged the Tories have ‘ground to make up’ and it would be ‘foolhardy’ to claim they would definitely win
Parliament’s behaviour watchdog, the Independent Expert Panel, upheld an earlier investigation that found he broke the MPs’ code of conduct on four counts of bullying and one of sexual misconduct.
The panel found that he had indecently exposed himself to the complainant in the bathroom of a hotel room during a work trip to Madrid.
Mr Bone has repeatedly denied the allegations and said in his statement on Tuesday that he would ‘have more to say on these matters in the new year’.
The former minister was kicked out of the Tory parliamentary party a day after the report was published on October 16.
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