Rishi Sunak faces fresh by-election after MP caught in lobbying sting

LONDON — Rishi Sunak faces another by-election headache after a damning report recommended a 35-day suspension for one of his MPs caught in a lobbying sting.

In a report Thursday, the standards committee recommended the hefty sanction for Scott Benton after concluding he had “committed a very serious breach” of House of Commons rules.

Benton had the Conservative whip suspended in April this year after he was filmed by undercover reporters for the Times appearing to offer lobby ministers on behalf of a fictitious gambling company and leak confidential documents. During the sting, he was recorded agreeing a fee of up to £4,000 for two days’ work on behalf of the firm.

If approved by MPs, the sanction could trigger a recall petition in his marginal Blackpool South seat, the next step to triggering a tricky by-election for Sunak’s Conservatives, who are trailing in the polls.

In its report, the Committee on Standards said Thursday that Benton had “repeatedly” indicated his “willingness to disregard” Commons rules and had given the impression that MPs had “in the past and will in the future engage in such misconduct.”

The report added: “His comments gave a false impression of the morality of MPs in a way which, if the public were to accept them as accurate, would be corrosive to respect for Parliament and undermine the foundations of our democracy.”