Rishi Sunak is bracing this morning to find out whether the Tories will have to fight yet another by-election following allegations of misbehaviour by a Tory MP.
MPs will vote on whether to suspend Tory MP Peter Bone from the Commons for six weeks, a lengthy period that will allow constituents to trigger a by-election in his Wellingborough constituency.
Mr Bone currently has an 18,540 majority, which while sizeable is much less than those overturned by Labour in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire last week.
A report published by the House of Commons’ top anti-sleaze body last week found Mr Bone guilty of “many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct” against a member of his own staff”.
Five allegations of bullying and one of sexual misconduct were upheld by the Commons Standards Commissioner and an appeal was dismissed by the Independent Expert Panel.
The allegations included claims he “verbally belittled, ridiculed, abused and humiliated” the member of staff, as well as physically striking and throwing things at him.
He also reportedly indecently exposed himself to the complainant on an overseas trip.
Labour is already ramping up plans to force the by-election, with sources telling the Guardian they are preparing to launch a campaign to encourage Wellingborough voters to sign the recall petition in order to secure a by-election.
MPs suspended for longer than 10 sitting days will allow constituents to sign a recall petition; if 10 percent of constituents do so during the six-week period the petition is open, it forces the MP out and sparks a by-election.
If triggered, Mr Bone would be the sixth by-election Rishi Sunak has had to fight for the Tories, and the 10th by-election overall since he became Prime Minister.
In the last 12 months, Mr Sunak has lost four seats to Labour and the Lib Dems, namely:
- Selby and Aisnty (Labour gain after the resignation of Nigel Adams)
- Somerton and Frome (Lib Dem gain after the resignation of David Warburton)
- Mid Bedfordshire (Labour gain after the resignation of Nadine Dorries)
- Tamworth (Labour gain after the resignation of Chris Pincher)
So far Mr Sunak has only succeeded in holding onto Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and only by a slim margin.
Mr Bone is yet to comment on whether he will see out the suspension, or whether he will resign ahead of a by-election being called by his constituents.
The Tories withdrew the whip from Mr Bone on October 17, meaning he now sits as an independent.
He was elected as a Tory MP in 2005, and served as a minister under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.