Tories withdraw support for candidates in gambling probe

‘We have concluded that we can no longer support Craig Williams or Laura Saunders as parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming general election’.

Tories withdraw support for candidates in gambling probe

Rishi Sunak holds a campaign event on June 24, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

By:
Pramod Thomas

TORIES said on Tuesday (25) it had withdrawn support for two parliamentary candidates who are being investigated over alleged bets placed on the timing of next month’s national election.

A London police officer working in a special protection unit was separately arrested last week over alleged bets made on the timing of the election, and police said on Tuesday that they had received information from the Gambling Commission alleging that five more officers placed bets on the election date.

“The Gambling Commission continues to investigate these matters. The officers have not been arrested but the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards has been informed,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

The escalating scandal, a blow to prime minister Rishi Sunak in the run up to a July 4 vote his Tories are forecast to lose, has also embroiled the party’s campaign director.

“As a result of ongoing internal enquiries, we have concluded that we can no longer support Craig Williams or Laura Saunders as parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming general election,” a spokesperson for the party said.

Earlier this month Williams, a close aide to Sunak, apologised for a “huge error of judgment” in placing a bet on when the election would happen.

Media then reported last week the country’s betting regulator, the Gambling Commission, was looking into allegations of improper betting by a second candidate, Saunders, and her husband Tony Lee, the party’s campaign director.

Reuters was unable to reach Saunders or Lee to seek comment.

The party said at the time it had been contacted by the Commission “about a small number of individuals”. It also said Lee had taken a leave of absence from his role.

The Tory spokesperson said the party had checked with the Gambling Commission to ensure its decision to withdraw support did not compromise its inquiries. The Commission has not named anyone in relation to its investigation.

British bookmakers allow bets on politics, and the timing of an election is a popular bet. But placing bets with insider knowledge is a crime.

Sunak, who took most lawmakers and voters by surprise when he announced the election date, has said he was “incredibly angry” to hear about the allegations.

The opposition Labour party said it was a sign of Sunak’s “staggeringly weak leadership” that it had taken him so long to suspend the candidates.

“The Tories who sought to line their own pockets by betting on the election date are not fit to be candidates for parliament,” Labour’s shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth said in a statement, demanding Sunak disclose the number of Conservatives who were implicated in the probe and name them.

(Reuters)