A past member of the Conservative party who served as a minister has been temporarily banned from participating in parliamentary activities for six weeks. This has started a movement by the Labour party to call for a new election in the affected constituency.
Members of Parliament (MPs) passed the penalty without a formal vote, following an investigation that confirmed Peter Bone had engaged in harassment and bullying towards a staff member and also exposed his genitals in their vicinity.
The local government will initiate a recall petition for voters in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire to sign within six weeks. If at least 10% of eligible voters sign, a byelection will be automatically called for Bone’s constituency.
Bone, who was stripped of the Conservative whip last week, denied the allegations against him and previously vowed to fight on as an MP. However, the former Commons deputy leader has made no statement since last Monday, 16 October.
There was a dispute at the eleventh hour regarding Bone’s actions leading up to the vote. In an interview with the BBC released on Wednesday morning, just hours before the vote, the unidentified accuser stated that the “physical, emotional, and psychological mistreatment” he endured from Bone had reduced him to a “damaged version of my former self.”
A previous member of the cabinet, Liam Fox, implied that the BBC may have violated parliamentary rules by trying to influence Members of Parliament before the vote.
After the confirmation of Bone’s suspension, senior members of the Conservative party admitted in private that they were pessimistic about the chances of winning Wellingborough in a potential byelection.
It is anticipated that the outcome of the recall petition will be revealed shortly before parliament adjourns for the Christmas break in mid-December.
According to their beliefs, a byelection may occur in February 2024. This could potentially disrupt the prime minister’s plans for a new year’s reset to improve his party’s standing before the general election.
In the next byelection, Bone would be eligible to run as a candidate.
In the past, Wellingborough has alternated between the two main political parties. However, in 1997, it was narrowly won by the Labour party with a margin of only 200 votes. In the most recent election in 2019, Bone secured the seat with a much larger majority of 19,000 votes.
In Wellingborough, the Liberal Democrats have consistently received a minimal portion of the votes. According to party insiders, they have no intentions of putting up a strong fight for the seat in a byelection.
A direct head-to-head competition would increase the likelihood of Labour reclaiming it and serve as a significant indication that Keir Starmer is gaining ground in areas where the party had lost support.
Labour has had a recent string of successes, taking Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire from the Conservatives last week, as well as Rutherglen and Hamilton West from the SNP earlier this month.
According to Robert Hayward, a member of the Conservative party and an expert in elections, the upcoming byelections in Wellingborough will present a difficult challenge.
Local sources from the Conservative party emphasized the presence of a highly engaged branch in Northamptonshire. They highlighted their recent achievement in a local council byelection in March, where the Conservative candidate secured 55% of the votes.
A nearby Conservative Member of Parliament stated that the party was in a stronger position to retain Wellingborough compared to other recent byelections.
Keiran Pedley, the politics director at Ipsos UK, stated that for Labour to win the seat from the Tories, there would need to be a significant shift of at least 18 points. He also mentioned that recent byelections in Tamworth, Mid Beds, and Selby and Ainsty have all experienced swings of over 20 points, giving Labour hope for a potential victory in Wellingborough if a byelection were to occur.
According to Chris Hopkins, who works as the political research director for Savanta UK, the Labour party is likely to see potential in winning a byelection against a prominent, though not necessarily prominent Brexiteer. However, he also noted that this would not be an easy victory for Labour as they may face tougher competition in Midlands seats during the upcoming general election.