Tory minister spotted out campaigning with suspended MP Peter Bone

A Conservative minister has been photographed campaigning with former Tory MP Peter Bone –suspended from the Commons after a probe found he had engaged in bullying and sexual misconduct.

Tom Pursglove – a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions – was photographed by canvassing with Mr Bone.

The Commons on Wednesday approved a six-week suspension for Mr Bone after parliament’s standards watchdog upheld counts of bullying and sexual misconduct against him relating to a staff member.

The panel found that he had indecently exposed himself to the complainant in the bathroom of a hotel room during a work trip to Madrid – something Mr Bone has denied.

The Sunday Mirror reported that the Corby MP Mr Pursglove was out door-knocking with Mr Bone only two days after his suspension was ratified by MPs.

Approached by the newspaper for comment, the Tory minister refused to say whether it was appropriate for him to be canvassing with a suspended MP.

Mr Pursglove on Saturday shared a tweet from Helen Harrison, a Conservative councillor on North Northamptonshire Council, showing a group of activists out campaigning ahead of a local council by-election.

The picture shows Mr Bone among the activists, holding leaflets with the Tory candidate’s profile on. Mr Bone reportedly said: “I’d love to talk to you but we’re out canvassing. Have a nice day.”

The former deputy leader of the Commons is said to have driven away from the canvassing session in the same car as Mr Pursglove.

Conservative MP for Corby Tom Pursglove (PA)
Conservative MP for Corby Tom Pursglove (PA)

Despite Mr Bone having been stripped of the Tory whip a day after the report was published on October 16, he has continued to campaign for the Tories in Northamptonshire.

A recall petition, due to open next month, will trigger a by-election if signed by 10 per cent of voters in his Wellingborough constituency.

The IEP found Mr Bone had “verbally belittled, ridiculed, abused and humiliated” an employee and “repeatedly physically struck and threw things” at him.

As well as being found to have indecently exposed himself, the MP also imposed an “unwanted and humiliating ritual” on the man by forcing him to sit with his hands in his lap, the investigation found.

Mr Bone has said the allegations against him are “false and untrue” and “without foundation”.

The complainant at the centre of the case has told the BBC it was a “horrid, brutal, dark experience that left me a broken shell of the young man I once was”.

Cabinet minister Michelle Donelan was asked if parliament had a big standards problem, given 16 MPs had the whip removed for allegations or findings – including sexual harassment and assault.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” said Ms Donelan. “But it is a small minority of MPs – we’ve got to be careful that we don’t cast a stain on all of us.”

Rishi Sunak has conceded that a by-election in the seat, that Mr Bone won with a 18,500 majority in 2019, would be “difficult” for the Tories.

Labour has urged Mr Bone to stand down immediately and spare his constituencies the recall process.

The five-figure majority is smaller than those the Tories had held in both Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire in 2019, seats that were lost in recent by-elections to Labour.

The Conservative Party said it would not be commenting. Mr Pursglove has also been approached for comment.