LONDON (Reuters) – An independent panel on Monday recommended that British lawmaker Peter Bone be suspended from parliament for bullying and sexual misconduct, potentially setting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives up for a fresh by-election test.
The Independent Expert Panel found that Bone committed “many varied acts” of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct against a staff member in 2012 and 2013. It recommended his suspension from the House of Commons for six weeks.
The suspension, if backed by parliament, triggers a recall petition in Bone’s constituency of Wellingborough in central England. If signed by 10% of voters, the petition leads to a by-election.
Bone denied the allegations. “As I have maintained throughout the proceedings, none of the misconduct allegations against me ever took place,” he said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Sunak’s Conservatives, who are trailing the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls, already face two parliamentary by-elections this week in constituencies they previously held.
Further by-election losses could embarrass Sunak ahead of a national election expected next year, and as he attempts to reset his government’s priorities on issues such as climate policy and transport.
During three previous by-elections held in July, the Conservatives narrowly held on to one seat and lost the other two, while Labour won a bigger-than-expected victory in a separate by-election in Scotland earlier this month.
The recommendation for Bone’s suspension comes after he appealed a previous decision by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that upheld allegations of bullying and sexual misconduct.
(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Sachin Ravikumar)