Suspended Tory picks the most inconvenient moment to resign as MP

You have to have a certain amount of sympathy for Scott Benton – especially now he’s chosen to resign at the most inconvenient moment possible for Rishi Sunak.

Benton was suspended from the Parliamentary Conservative Party after being caught in a “sting” operation run by The Times in April 2023.

As This Site stated at the time:

Benton referred himself to Parliament’s standards watchdog and had the whip removed by his party… It seems The Times had filmed him saying he could table Parliamentary questions and leak a Parliamentary policy paper, if he took a job with the fake firm.

But he did not pursue the role and it seems no rules have been broken.

Oh yes, he was definitely caught offering to do something wrong.

The injustice in his suspension arises from the fact that three, out of five, MPs had been approached by the campaigning organisation Led By Donkeys around the same time.

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What did I say about that? Oh yes…

This seems no different from the behaviour of three of the five MPs who were approached by Led By Donkeys. They did not have apparent concerns about being used as conduits for a firm to talk to ministers. Another, who said he could not lobby directly, said there was a way around the rules.

To This Writer’s knowledge, none of them have been referred to the Parliamentary standards watchdog or been suspended from their party whip (although, in Matt Hancock’s case, this would be difficult as he [had] already been suspended).

I asked the obvious question: Why had Benton been suspended and not those others?

It seems Benton has asked himself the question and, unable to come up with an answer, has decided to take the nastiest revenge possible.

Another reason I can’t blame him for triggering a by-election in his Blackpool South constituency is the fact that he has been left on suspension from membership of the Conservative Parliamentary party for almost an entire year.

Considering nothing at all happened to other Tories who were accused of the same misbehaviour, this seems exorbitant.

In fairness, Benton lost the party whip pending the result of an investigation by the Commons Standards Committee, which reported on the matter in December last year.

At that time, the committee said he had not sought the interview with undercover reporters and “there is no evidence that he has ever sought opportunities to make improper financial gains from his position as a Member”.

But it also stated that his interactions with The Times were a “very serious breach” of lobbying rules and that he had given the message that “he was corrupt and ‘for sale’ and that so were many other Members of the House”.

The recommendation was that he be suspended from Parliament for 35 days, which is long enough to trigger a recall petition that may allow constituents to oust him from the House of Commons altogether.

Benton lost an appeal against the proposed suspension in February and MPs later voted to approve it – triggering the recall petition.

So he has plenty of reasons to be unhappy – and to want Rishi Sunak to be unhappy too.

Now, a by-election – the fourth this year alone – will take place on May 2, which is local election day. Sunak is expected to receive a hard smacking from voters who are sick of his government and will want to take it out on Tories wherever they are to be found.

A Parliamentary by-election loss would add insult to that injury and worsen Sunak’s – and the Tories’ – already calamitous chances at a general election.

In this case, it seems likely at least one person would call that poetic justice.

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