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Blackpool, let's boot Benton. We've had enough.

The MP for Blackpool South lost his local party, his Westminster colleagues and his final appeal against suspension, but is resisting all calls to resign. If he wants a recall petition, let's give it to him in spades. 


February 20 2024, 15.00pm

That Scott Benton chose not to take his 35-day suspension lying down shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But the manner in which the Blackpool South MP went about appealing his the suspension – for offering to lobby ministers on behalf of the gambling industry –managed to shock me again. 

Benton was caught red handed in an undercover newspaper sting and the Committee on Standards concluded that his breach was “extremely serious”. His behaviour suggested not only that he was “for sale” but that so too were “many other members of the house”. This caused significant damage to the reputation of the integrity of the House and its members, the committee said.

But here is a post-truth politician who clearly still believes his constituents are stupid enough to believe his rhetoric. It’s not fair, he cried, spitting his dummy out the day the damning report was published in December. He claimed the standards process did not adhere to its own principles, that the evidence used against him was factually inaccurate and that “our democracy is under threat”. 


The Independent Expert Panel was not impressed, and has finally approved the suspension. 

“We consider that the appellant’s arguments are misconceived or erroneous,” it wrote in its report released this morning. “Essentially, the appellant simply disagrees with the sanction determined… The sanction imposed was neither unreasonable nor disproportionate.”

A suspension of just 10 days would have been enough to trigger a by-election in Blackpool under the Recall of MPs Act 2015 – and Benton has been handed 35. Now in Blackpool South we can finally prepare to head to the polls. 

But before we get to that point, us voters in Blackpool South will need to sign a recall petition. The petition will be open for six weeks and 10 per cent of constituents must sign in person or by post. If that threshold is reached, the Speaker of the House of Commons will be informed and the seat for Blackpool South will become vacant. When Brecon and Radnorshire Conservative MP Chris Davies fiddled his expenses in 2019, 19 per cent of electors wanted him gone.

Last February Benton fell out spectacularly with local Conservatives who signed a letter of no confidence in him. Then in April, following the Times lobbying sting, he lost the confidence of his colleagues in Westminster, and had the Tory whip suspended. You'd think even one of these would be enough of a hint, but Benton is still warming a seat in Westminster as an independent. Railing against the standards committee was just the latest show of belligerence and brazenness that have been the hallmarks of our disgraced MP.  

Somewhat depressingly, he will be allowed to stand as a candidate in a forthcoming by-election. Is Benton deluded enough to believe he still has the confidence of his constituents, even after losing the confidence of his party, both locally and nationally, the standards committee and the House of Commons? Would Reform have him?

After the decision of the Independent Expert Panel today, Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth said Benton should “do the decent thing and resign, saving the people of Blackpool South a lengthy recall petition that would leave them without the representation they deserve”. No doubt many in Blackpool would agree. But Benton is clearly not one to bow out gracefully - and, I for one, won’t refuse the opportunity to sign him away if he doesn’t go willingly.

Now is the time to send him a message he can’t ignore – to dwarf the 10 per cent of votes needed for a recall by signing the petition at the earliest opportunity, and in big numbers.

 Do you want to be the first to sign the recall petition? Subscribe to The Blackpool Lead today, and we'll let you know the minute it is up.

Plus, get all our by-election coverage, resources to get out the vote and our recall tracker to your inbox, every week, for free. 

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