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Rishi Sunak Faces Blackpool By-Election After Scott Benton Resigns As MP

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton (Alamy)

2 min read

Former Conservative MP Scott Benton has resigned his Blackpool South seat, triggering what could be another damaging by-election for Rishi Sunak.

In a statement posted on his website on Monday, Benton, who has held the seat since 2019, said that he had written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to tender his resignation and it had been the “honour of a lifetime to represent our wonderful Blackpool community in Parliament over the last four years”. 

Benton lost the Tory whip last April after he was caught telling an undercover reporter that he would consider breaking lobbying rules in exchange for payment. 

Benton denied breaking rules and tried to appeal the decision but the Independent Expert Panel rejected the appeal against his 35-day expulsion from the Commons. 

The IEP’s decision meant that earlier this month a recall petition was opened in Benton’s Blackpool South seat, which if signed by 10 per cent of the electorate would have triggered a by-election. 

In his statement today, Benton said that he is “mindful of giving a new candidate the time and space to campaign” to “prevent” a Labour government. 

He concluded: “In 2019, I pledged to be an active, hardworking and relatable MP who would listen to your concerns and views and act upon them: I’d like to think that I have more than succeeded in that aim. It’s in the best interests of our community that my successor succeeds and I wish them well.”

The Treasury confirmed that the resignation has been accepted, and said in a statement that "the Chancellor of the Exchequer has this day appointed Scott Lloyd Benton to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead". 

The by-election will be another electoral test for Sunak, as the Conservatives continue to trail in the opinion polls. Data from YouGov last week suggested that they have fallen below 20 per cent. 

Benton’s majority in the seat is 3,690, smaller than other majorities that have flipped from Conservative to Labour at by-elections in the last 18 months. 

Labour overturned previously Conservative majorities of more than 24,000 and 19,000 in Mid-Bedfordshire and Tamworth in by-elections in October. 
 

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