Sunak facing by-election test after Tory MP's constituents back recall

Voters have triggered a by-election in Peter Bone's constituency.

Rishi Sunak facing by-election test after Peter Bone’s Northamptonshire constituents back recall UK Parliament

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will face an electoral test early in the new year after voters in Peter Bone MP’s seat triggered a by-election.

North Northamptonshire Council confirmed that 13.2% of the electorate in Wellingborough backed a petition to recall their MP, passing the 10% threshold required for a by-election contest.

The petition had been prompted after Bone was handed a six-week suspension from the House of Commons after an inquiry found he had subjected a staff member to bullying and sexual misconduct.

He has been sitting as an independent after losing the Conservative whip in the aftermath of the ruling.

In a statement published on social media, Bone said having a by-election seemed “bizarre as 86.8% of the electorate did not want to remove me from office, nor for there to be a by-election, and yet we are still to have one”.

The veteran politician, who has been spotted in Westminster in recent days, said the allegations against him were “totally untrue and without foundation”.

He thanked those who had “contacted me to offer their support from across the political spectrum”.

The council recorded on Tuesday that 10,505 people backed the petition to recall Mr Bone during a process lasting six weeks.

The by-election threshold had been set at 7,904 people — 10% of the 79,046 eligible voters in his Northamptonshire constituency.

It means Mr Sunak, the Conservative Party leader, will face another stern test early in 2024.

Wellingborough has been held by the Tories since 2005 after Mr Bone took it from Labour.

During Boris Johnson’s landslide general election victory in 2019, the Tories held it with a strong 18,540 majority.

But with the Tories well behind Labour in the polls and larger blue majorities having been overturned in recent by-elections, Mr Sunak’s party is expected to have a battle on its hands to hold onto the constituency when voters go to the polls.

The Tory Wellingborough majority is smaller than those overturned by Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire during by-elections in October.

Labour chair Anneliese Dodds said voters in Wellingborough had the “opportunity to vote for a fresh start” during an upcoming by-election.

The senior Opposition MP 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 (the party’s Wellingborough candidate) and the Labour Party.”

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.

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.

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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