Gambling Commission 'investigating others' as Tory betting scandal deepens

The General Election betting allegations has sparked outrage from politicians (PA Wire)
The General Election betting allegations has sparked outrage from politicians (PA Wire)

The Gambling Commission is reportedly investigating other people linked to the Conservatives or government who allegedly placed bets on a July election.

Four Conservatives are already understood to be under investigation by the watchdog after allegedly betting on when an election would take place, before the July 4 date was announced by Rishi Sunak.

The party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, is the latest Tory to be investigated in the growing scandal.

He has taken a leave of absence amid claims he placed bets on the timing of the General Election before the date was announced on May 22.

Tony Lee, the party’s director of campaigns, and his wife Laura Saunders who is also running for the Conservatives in the General Election, are also under investigation by the Commission.

Craig Williams, who was the Prime Minister’s parliamentary private secretary and is the Conservative candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, has admitted to putting “a flutter” on the date of the election and is also facing a probe.A source has now told ITV the Gambling Commission has identified other people of interest, as well as Tory officials Mr Lee and Mr Mason, and parliamentary hopefuls Mr Williams and Ms Saunders.

The Gambling Commission has reportedly written to bookmakers asking for details of those who bet £20 or above on a July election, in the days before it was called by Mr Sunak on May 22.

“It is a tried and trusted investigatory process” a source told ITV’s Robert Peston.

“It is pretty straightforward to work out who might have had access to privileged information about the timing of the election and to identify their mates”.

Ms Saunders, a Conservative candidate in the Bristol North West constituency, has said she will co-operate fully with the investigation.

Mr Williams earlier this month apologised for a “huge error of judgement” after he placed a £100 bet on a July election just three days before it was called by the Prime Minister.

Rishi Sunak calling for a general election outside Number 10 (Sky News)
Rishi Sunak calling for a general election outside Number 10 (Sky News)

A police officer working as part of the prime minister's protection team has also since been arrested over alleged bets about the timing of the General Election.

The Gambling Commission informed the Metropolitan Police that it was probing alleged bets made on the July 4 date by a police constable from the force’s royalty and specialist protection command.

Scotland Yard referred the matter to detectives in its Directorate of Professional Standards, who opened an investigation.

The officer who protects Rishi Sunak was “removed from operational duties" and then arrested on Monday on suspicion of misconduct in public office.

On Sunday, The Sunday Times claimed dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.

The growing row - when Labour’s poll lead over the Tories remains stubbornly around 20 points - gives Rishi Sunak a further headache in the closing stages of the campaign.

Home secretary James Cleverly said on Sunday he had no reason to believe cabinet ministers had placed bets on the timing of the General Election.

Asked on the BBC if any ministers had put a bet on the timing of the election, he said: “Not to my knowledge.”

He told GB News: “My view has always been the case that people in government should focus on delivering for the people of this country.

“People who are officials of the party should be focused on returning as many Conservative MPs as possible so we can form a government, so that we can serve the British people.

“And anything other than that is inappropriate. So whilst I’m not going to discuss any of the details, people should focus exclusively on the people we’re here to serve.”

Mr Sunak surprised many Westminster-watchers by calling the election for July 4 instead of holding the contest in the autumn.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said there is “genuine disgust” among voters over the General Election betting allegations.

She told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “The issue here is whether those people who had inside knowledge of what was going on used that information in placing a bet.

“People across the country will place bets, but I think there is genuine disgust among so many voters that what we’re seeing here is pretty shocking behaviour.

“Rishi Sunak promised us that his Government would be different, he hasn’t acted against candidates concerned, he should suspend them, and – as Michael Gove has said – this just reminds people of the worst excesses of the Conservatives over the last 14 years.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove compared the impact of the row with the Partygate scandal.

“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” he told the Sunday Times, adding: “That’s the most potentially damaging thing.”

Mr Gove went on to suggest it was “just not acceptable” for those in a “privileged position” close to the Prime Minister to use what he described as “inside information to make additional money for yourself”.

He added: “You are, in effect, securing an advantage against other people who are betting entirely fairly and without that knowledge. So if these allegations are true, it’s very difficult to defend.”

Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden wrote to the Gambling Commission calling for the watchdog to name all those being investigated.

“With postal ballots already being sent out, many millions of people will be casting their vote this week,” he said. “They deserve to have all relevant facts about this scandal at their disposal when doing so.”

The Liberal Democrats called on Mr Sunak to intervene personally, with a Cabinet Office inquiry into the reports.

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This is now an all-out scandal at the heart of Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party.”

The Conservative Party has been approached by the Standard.