Former Wellingborough Conservative council leader joins calls for MP Peter Bone to resign
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The former Conservative leader of the now-defunct Borough Council of Wellingborough has called for MP Peter Bone to resign.
Now an independent councillor on North Northamptonshire Council, Cllr Martin Griffiths has joined pleas from opposition parties for scandal-hit Mr Bone to quit his job.
Mr Bone was suspended from Parliament over the bullying of a staff member and sexual misconduct, with a recall petition set to start next month which could force a by-election.
The MP hit the headlines again at the weekend after being seen campaigning with fellow Tories – including close ally and protégé Corby MP Tom Pursglove, a government minister – despite having the Conservative whip withdrawn.
A one-time colleague, Cllr Griffiths (Ind, Irchester) says he has had concerned constituents contact him questioning the cost of the recall petition for local taxpayers.
Cllr Griffiths said: “The game is up for Bone and he should resign now before nine polling stations have to open for six whole weeks to take signatures on the recall petition.
“I have had taxpayers from Wollaston to Wilby to Weldon contact me concerned that their council tax in north Northamptonshire is being used to pay for a recall petition that, from my experience and from previous recalls, could amount to as much as £150,000
“I even had a Rushden resident contact me from Barbados, where he was on holiday, horrified at what was going on back home, so clearly news of this dreadful case has travelled far and wide.
“If Bone was to accept the decision of the independent panel and subsequent appeal panel and resign in the next few days a proportion of that eye-watering figure could be saved and council staff could concentrate instead an all the other challenges they face, day to day, in these difficult times.”
Arrangements have been put in place for the recall petition that could trigger a by-election in the Wellingborough parliamentary constituency.
On Wednesday, October 25, MPs backed the motion to suspend Peter Bone for a period of six weeks after Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) upheld counts of bullying and sexual misconduct against him relating to a junior aide.
In an interview with the BBC, the former aide who made the complaints said he had been left ‘a broken shell of the young man’ he once was, and it had been ‘horrid, brutal, dark experience’.
Cllr Griffiths has called for Mr Bone to stand down, joining those of Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. Speaking to PA news agency she said the suspended MP should ‘recognise the seriousness of this’ after IEP published its findings.
Mr Bone raised hackles last week when he joined his partner Cllr Helen Harrison (Con, Oundle), North Northamptonshire Council’s executive member for adults, health and wellbeing, by delivering leaflets in Wellingborough at the time the House of Commons was deciding his fate.
This weekend Mr Bone met up with local Tory supporters to do more leafleting – including five serving North Northants councillors. He was photographed by The Daily Mirror on the campaign trail with Tom Pursglove on Saturday (October 28).
In a newsletter to local Conservative Party members, seen by the Northants Telegraph, the party faithful were asked to back Mr Bone saying ‘he deserves our support after his service over the years’.
But Cllr Griffiths said: “Peter Bone should resign and do so now to save money for the council taxpayers, some of which he has represented for many years, to enable the victim of this case to move on with the rest of his life, and to save further mental trauma for both himself and his immediate family."
Mr Bone has denied all the allegations set out in the IEP report.
A recall petition is the process by which an MP can lose their seat in the House of Commons. The electorate in the relevant constituency will have six weeks to sign the petition. By signing, the electorate are saying that they want their MP to lose their seat. Only those who want to see the MP removed need to sign the petition.
The petition will be opened on Wednesday, November 8, and will close on Tuesday, December 19, with ‘Notices of Petition’ – like poll cards in a normal election – sent out on or around November 3, 2023.
The only way the petition can be closed early is if Mr Bone resigns or an early general election is called within six months of notice being received.
People who are registered in the register of parliamentary electors for the Wellingborough constituency are able to sign the petition in person, by post or by proxy.
If at least 10 percent of eligible voters have signed the petition, the petition is successful. This means the MP will leave their seat once the Petition Officer has informed the Speaker of the House of Commons of the outcome of the petition. If the petition is successful, it will then trigger a by-election. It is likely that this would be held in late January/early February.
If fewer than 10 percent of eligible voters sign the petition, the petition is unsuccessful, and the MP remains in post.