Rishi Sunak faces crunch 'Red Wall' by-election on May 2 after Tory MP Scott Benton quits

Rishi Sunak faces crunch 'Red Wall' by-election on May 2 after Tory MP Scott Benton quits

Disgraced ex-Tory MP Scott Benton has resigned forcing another crunch by-election for the Prime Minister.

The Blackpool South MP was facing the prospect of being removed from his seat by voters after being caught in a "toxic" lobbying scandal.

He was stripped of the Conservative party whip in 2023 after The Times newspaper filmed him saying he could leak a confidential policy paper to a bogus investment fund and ask parliamentary questions on its behalf in a breach of parliamentary rules.

The Committee on Standards recommended he be banned from the House of Commons for 35 days, sparking a recall petition in his constituency.

It said his actions were an “extremely serious breach” of the rules and the message he gave to the undercover reporters was “that he was corrupt and ‘for sale’, and that so were many other Members of the House”.

His appeal over the suspension failed earlier this year.

In a letter to his constituents on Monday, Mr Benton annound he was quitting his seat.

He said: “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 resignation means Rishi Sunak will face another crunch Westminster by-election, as well as local elections on May 2.

It will be his 12th since he become PM in October 2022. The Conservatives have failed to win all but one.

The new by-election, this time 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.

Mr Benton won a majority of just 3,690 at the 2019 general election and it is a key Labour target seat.

He added: “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.”