Scott Benton resigns as MP, paving way for Blackpool by-election

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton, who lost the Conservative whip after being embroiled in a lobbying scandal, has announced he will quit Parliament rather than wait for the outcome of a recall petition.

His resignation, coming before the petition was due to close on April 22, means Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces another challenging by-election.

The Treasury on Monday appointed Mr Benton to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead under the archaic formal procedure to exit the Commons after he said he had written to the Chancellor “with a heavy heart” to tender his resignation.

Mr Benton was last month suspended from the House of Commons for 35 days after he was found to have breached Commons rules.

It came after he was filmed by The Times offering to lobby ministers and table parliamentary questions on behalf of gambling investors.

Mr Benton was stripped of the Tory whip after the allegations surfaced and has been sitting as an independent.

A recall petition opened against him earlier this month, which, if signed by 10% of voters in Blackpool South, would have triggered a by-election.

(PA Graphics)

But his immediate exit from the Commons means the contest could be brought forward to May 2, the date of the local elections.

Mr Benton won the seat for the Tories in 2019 with a slim majority of 3,690 and Labour would hope to snatch it back in a by-election.

It is one of the “red wall” seats – the traditional Labour areas that switched to Boris Johnson’s Tories in 2019.

A by-election in the north-west England seat will be the fourth such vote held this year, while defeat would be the 11th time the Government has lost a seat in a by-election since the start of the current Parliament in 2019.

It will cause a headache for Mr Sunak following recent defeats to Labour in Kingswood and Wellingborough.

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces another tricky by-election after ex-Tory MP Scott Benton’s resignation (Danny Lawson/PA)

In a statement on his Facebook page on Monday, Mr Benton said: “It’s been the honour of a lifetime to represent our wonderful community in Parliament over the last four years.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I have written to the Chancellor this morning to tender my resignation as your MP.

“I’d like to thank the hundreds of residents who have sent supportive messages, cards and letters over the last few months and who have urged me to continue and fight the next election.

“The support that so many local people have given to me has made it all worthwhile.

“A Labour government would be catastrophic for our country.

“I’m mindful of giving a new candidate the time and space to campaign to prevent that from happening and it is for this reason that I have made this decision at this time.”