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From Scandal to Hope: Blackpool South By-Election Called



The seaside town of Blackpool, on England's North West coast, has undergone a significant transformation over the last year. The MP for Blackpool South, Scott Benton, had the Conservative Whip suspended on April 5th, 2023, pending an investigation into undercover footage which revealed his involvement in offering to lobby for a gambling firm and leak market sensitive information. Scott Benton eventually resigned on March 25th, 2024, promoted by a recall petition triggered by Labour’s PPC for Blackpool South, Chris Webb. 


I was in Blackpool the day before Benton’s resignation canvassing on behalf of Webb, and it was clear to me the residents of Blackpool South had strong negative opinions of Benton. Conversely there were a lot of positive opinions of Webb. It was clear to me that the recall petition would be successful. Honestly, it is commendable that Benton resigned in good grace rather than being dragged out of Parliament.


Chris Webb has a strong connection to the constituency. Born and bred in Blackpool, Webb personally understands the challenges faced by constituents. His background as an assistant to former Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden and as a former organiser in the North West area has solidified his ties and understanding of the constituency. Webb’s experience in the public sector and working-class background - will make him a brilliant and vital member of Parliament who can truly understand the struggles and experiences of working-class people.


(Image: Sonny Remmer-Riley, 5th to the right / Blackpool, Chris Webb's Office)


Webb’s campaign focuses on addressing the needs of a local community, such as addressing child poverty and mental health support. He has been raising awareness, fundraising and giving his time to deliver 12,000 meals to local families each week through various food banks. Webb is committed to improving mental health support for residents through his work leading the Blackpool Mental Health Charity, which was awarded Blackpool Charity of the Year in 2023. 


The by-election in Blackpool South is set against a backdrop of serious political challenges for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party. The ruling Party has faced a series of defeats in recent by-elections, and the loss of Blackpool South would add to growing concerns about the Party’s appeal in former Labour strongholds, referred to as “Red Wall” seats. The outcome of this bye-election could very well serve as a catalyst for Sunak to be forced into calling the general election sooner rather than later.


Rishi Sunak’s dwindling majority in the commons has many concerned over the stability of his government. The Conservative party has lost over 15 members of parliament since the 2019 general election. The constant by-elections are a financial strain on the taxpayer and are indicative of Rishi Sunak’s desperate attempts to cling onto whatever power he has left. If the Conservatives lose in Blackpool South, adding to their big roster of lost by-elections in recent years, it could force the Party into triggering a much needed general election. Another by-election defeat would, without question, show the nation-wide discontent with the un-elected leader Rishi Sunak.


This is an opportunity for Labour to make a statement and regain a seat traditional red wall seat lost in 2019. The Party has been actively campaigning in the area, with Labour Students running campaign days and encouraging students from across the UK to participate. Labour has been emphasising its commitment to addressing the needs of deprived areas, such as Blackpool. In fact, Blackpool is the most deprived local authority in England and one-third of areas within Blackpool are among the nation's top 10 most deprived in the nation. 


The by-election in Blackpool South represents an important shift in the area's political landscape. The resignation of Scott Benson and overwhelming positive response to Chris Webb’s campaign have set the stage for a contest between Labour and the Tories. The outcome of this by-election could have broad implications for the national political landscape, as it may very well lead Rishi Sunak to trigger a general election as his majority in Parliament is slowly dwindling down. Either way, a general election is not far way. 



Image: The Blackpool Gazette

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