Rishi Sunak Faces New Challenge with Scott Benton’s Suspension Appeal Loss

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London (Parliament Politic Magazine) – Rishi Sunak faces a new challenge as Scott Benton loses appeal against suspension, likely triggering a by-election in Blackpool South

Rishi Sunak confronts another suffering by-election as Scott Benton has lost a plea against his suspension. The Blackpool South MP was detected by an undercover newspaper sting offering to lobby ministers on behalf of gambling investors.

In December, the Commons slime watchdog found that he had committed a “severe” breach of Parliamentary rules and recommended facing a 35-day suspension. But Mr Benton had questioned the decision.

Today, his appeal has been denied. The decision will likely begin a by-election in his marginal seat, which he won for the Tories with a 3,690 vote majority over Labour at the last election. It arrives just days after the Prime Minister was humiliated to lose two previously safe Tory seats – Kingswood and Wellingborough – in by-elections on Thursday.

In its report last year, the Standards Committee stated that in a meeting with undercover reporters from The Times, Mr. Benton had given the impression that “he was corrupt and ‘for sale,’ and so were many other” MPs.

“He communicated a toxic message about standards in Parliament. We condemn Mr. Benton for his comments, which unjustifiably tarnish the reputation of all MPs,” the committee added. It said his actions had “undermined [d] the foundations of our democracy.” It also blamed him for giving “an incomplete and incorrect picture of what had transpired during the meeting” before the footage was released.

During his discussion with the fake company, Mr. Benton recommended he could get hold of a Government paper on gambling policy 48 hours before it was published. But after he was caught, he claimed he had meant 48 hours after it was made public. The Standards Commissioner Daniel Greenberg said this excuse was not “credible.”

In interviews with Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Benton expressed he had exaggerated and lied to the reporters to impress them. The Standards Commissioner noted: “It goes without saying that it is intensely disturbing and disappointing that a Member makes assertions to strangers that he later readily describes as lies.”

Moreover, The committee report, released in December, stated: “By repeatedly indicating his willingness to disregard the House’s rules, and by giving the impression that many Members of the House had in the past and will in the future engage in such misconduct, Mr. Benton committed a grave breach of Paragraph 11 of the Rules.

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“His comments gave a false impression of the morality of MPs in a way which, if the public were to accept them as accurate, would be corrosive to respect for Parliament and undermine the foundations of our democracy.” It further added: “A serious sanction is appropriate. We recommend that the House suspend Mr. Benton from its service for 35 days, with concomitant loss of salary”.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.