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Scott Benton: Ex-Tory MP resigns leaving PM to face new by-election

Scott Benton
Scott Benton

Former Conservative MP Scott Benton has resigned, setting up a by-election to replace him in his Blackpool South constituency.

He was facing a local vote on whether to remove him, following the imposition of a Commons ban in the wake of a lobbying scandal.

It followed a newspaper sting in April last year, after which he was suspended as a Tory MP.

Local voters had until 22 April to decide whether to sack him as their MP.

But in a statement on Facebook, he has now announced he has officially tendered his resignation, setting up a vote to replace him.

It will create another headache for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following a string of by-election defeats in recent months.

It is understood that the Conservatives will start the process to set the by-election on Tuesday, the last day before Parliament's Easter break.

This means the by-election would take place on 2 May, when voters in England and Wales go to the polls for local and mayoral elections.

Mr Benton took the Blackpool South seat at the 2019 election by a slim 3,690 majority. It had previously been held by Labour since 1997.

Defending the seat will prove a challenge for the Tories, who have seen much bigger majorities overturned by Labour in by-elections over the last six months.

The Conservatives are heavily trailing Labour ahead of the general election expected later this year.

Newspaper sting

Mr Benton has been sitting as an independent MP since losing the Tory whip in April last year, following an investigation by the Times.

He was secretly filmed by undercover reporters, who were posing as gambling industry investors, saying he could lobby ministers.

He was also recorded offering to table parliamentary questions and leak a confidential policy paper.

He lost an appeal against a suspension, after a Commons investigation found he had caused "significant damage" to Parliament's reputation.

MPs approved a 35-day Commons ban towards the end of last month.

This triggered a process under which he could have been removed if 10% of registered voters in Blackpool South signed a recall petition to get rid of him.

But this will no longer run, with the government confirming on Monday that Mr Benton has now officially stood down as an MP.