Seven Met police officers now being investigated over general election betting as probe expands

The number of Met Police officers under investigation over bets on the timing of the general election has risen to at least seven (PA Wire)
The number of Met Police officers under investigation over bets on the timing of the general election has risen to at least seven (PA Wire)

The number of Metropolitan Police officers under investigation over bets on the timing of the general election has risen to at least seven, the force said.

One of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's protection team who was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office remains on bail and is subject to restricted duties, while a further six officers have been identified as having placed bets on the timing of the elections “so far”, the Met said on Thursday.

It disclosed an increase in number of officers being investigated - previously only six were known about- as it gave further details on its growing role in a joint investigation with the Gambling Commission looking at suspected use of inside information for betting on the July 4 poll.

The Gambling Commission is focused on allegations of cheating, which are likely to make up the majority of cases, while Scotland Yard will lead on what is likely to be a much smaller number of cases where there could be additional offences such as misconduct in public office.

So far five Conservatives have also been caught up in the inquiry, with reports suggesting the figure could be 15 parliamentary candidates and officials, although the gambling watchdog has not confirmed the numbers involved.It came as Business minister Kevin Hollinrake said any Conservative caught breaking gambling rules will be “booted out” of the party.

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake said it was “wrong” for candidates to bet on their own seats after the Sun reported that Sir Philip Davies, the husband of “common sense minister” Esther McVey, had bet £8,000 on himself to lose his race in West Yorkshire.

Philip Davies with wife Esther McVey (YouTube / GB News)
Philip Davies with wife Esther McVey (YouTube / GB News)

But Mr Hollinrake revealed that he had himself placed a wager “months ago” at 9-1 on a Tory majority, telling LBC: “You may think that’s foolhardy. I absolutely think that’s still a possibility.”

He would have got much better odds today: Betfair and Paddy Power are offering 100/1 on a Tory victory in next Thursday’s election.

On Tuesday, Mr Sunak caved in to mounting calls to withdraw support for two parliamentary candidates facing an investigation by the gambling regulator - his parliamentary aide, Craig Williams, and Laura Saunders.

Ms Saunders' husband, Tony Lee, the Conservative Party's director of campaigning, has taken a leave of absence, as has Tory chief data officer Nick Mason, while Senedd member Russell George stepped back from the shadow cabinet in the Welsh Parliament after being placed under investigation.

Labour has also been dragged into the row, suspending candidate Kevin Craig after he was investigated by the regulator for betting on himself to lose the contest in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

There was no change to the betting odds after a spirited BBC debate last night between Mr Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer, their final televised head-to-head debate ahead of the election.

The Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of being “bullied” into taking action against the Tory candidates in Montgomeryshire & Glyndwr and Bristol North West.

The PM, meanwhile, repeatedly warned voters not to “surrender” to Labour’s tax and migration plans in the debate, which was scored a draw in a snap poll by YouGov.

Home Secretary James Cleverly appeared to concede his party has a mountain to climb, given Labour’s huge poll lead over the Conservatives, which stands at 23 points in the latest Ipsos survey for the Standard.

He told Sky News after the debate: “Of course we want to form a government, but if the British people say no to that, we have absolutely got to make sure that we protect them from the ineptitude and dishonesty of a Labour government.”

But away from policy, pollsters say that issues such as “Betgate” and the PM’s early exit from D-Day ceremonies in France have cut through more with voters during the six-week election campaign.

Mr Hollinrake said that “mistakes” made in the campaign were “a distraction from what really counts in this election”, while vowing strict action against erring Tories following “due process”.

Asked about Sir Philip, the minister said: “I don’t want to speculate on speculation, which I think that is, but the Prime Minister has been very clear that anybody who has broken the rules will be booted out of the Conservative Party.”

Sir Keir, meanwhile, has suspended Kevin Craig, a Labour candidate who bet against himself in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.