Sunak facing by-election test after Peter Bone’s constituents back a recall
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 Mr 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, Mr 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 victory in 2019, the Tories held it with a strong 18,540 majority.
Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour Party, said voters in Wellingborough had the “opportunity to vote for a fresh start” during a by-election.
The MP said: “The results of the recall petition demonstrate that Wellingborough is ready for change.
“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.
“They deserve an MP firmly on their side and focused on their priorities.”
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.
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 denied the allegations.
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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