A previous member of the Conservative party who served in government has been temporarily banned from parliament for six weeks, prompting the Labour party to push for a new election.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) gave their consent to the punishment without a vote, following a report from an oversight committee that discovered Peter Bone had mistreated and intimidated a staff member and exposed his genitals in close proximity to their face.
The local government will initiate a recall petition for voters in Bone’s district of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. It will be open for six weeks and if 10% of eligible voters sign, it will automatically trigger a byelection.
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 disagreement about Bone’s conduct at the last minute before the vote. In a BBC interview released on Wednesday morning, the person who remains unidentified stated that the alleged victim suffered “physical, emotional, and psychological abuse” from Bone, causing him to become a “damaged version of his former self.”
Former cabinet minister Liam Fox accused the BBC of potentially showing contempt towards parliament by trying to influence MPs before the vote.
Following the confirmation of Bone’s suspension, senior members of the Conservative party privately admitted feeling pessimistic about their chances of winning in Wellingborough if a byelection were to occur.
It is anticipated that the outcome of the recall petition will be revealed shortly before parliament takes a break for the Christmas holiday in mid-December.
They are of the opinion that a byelection will probably occur in February 2024, potentially disrupting the prime minister’s plans for a new year reset to improve his party’s position before the general election.
In the upcoming byelection, Bone would be eligible to run as a candidate.
In the past, Wellingborough has shifted back and forth between the two primary political parties. However, in 1997, Labour narrowly won by a margin of only 200 votes. In the most recent election in 2019, Bone secured the seat with a significant majority of 19,000 votes.
In the past, the Liberal Democrats have received a significantly small portion of the votes in Wellingborough. According to party insiders, they do not plan to actively compete for the seat in a byelection.
A head-to-head competition would increase the likelihood of Labour reclaiming the position and serve as a significant indication of Keir Starmer’s progress in regaining support in areas that had previously turned away from the party.
The Labour party has recently achieved a series of victories by winning elections in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire from the Conservative party last week, and in Rutherglen and Hamilton West from the Scottish National Party earlier this month.
According to Robert Hayward, a member of the Conservative party and an expert in elections, the upcoming defense of Wellingborough will be quite challenging, especially after the byelections that took place last week.
Yet, local Conservative representatives emphasized that the party has a highly engaged presence in Northamptonshire. They highlighted their recent triumph in a byelection for the local council 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 maintain control of Wellingborough compared to other recent byelections.
According to Keiran Pedley, who is the director of politics at Ipsos UK, there would have to be a change of at least 18 points in order for Labour to win the seat from the Conservative party. He also mentioned that recent byelections in Tamworth, Mid Beds, and Selby and Ainsty have all had swings of over 20 points, so Labour may have a positive outlook on winning the Wellingborough seat if a byelection occurs.
Chris Hopkins, the director of political research at Savanta UK, also stated that the Labour party may have a good chance of winning a byelection in the constituency of a prominent Brexiteer, even if they are not currently a part of the frontbench. However, he acknowledged that this would not be an easy victory for Labour and that winning seats in the Midlands region may pose some of their biggest challenges during the upcoming general election.