Starmer says Sunak was 'bullied' into action over gambling scandal - as Metropolitan Police investigates 'small number of cases'

Sir Keir Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of being "bullied into action" over the election gambling scandal after a question over politicians' "lack of integrity and honesty" in the final TV debate.

As the debate in Nottingham came to an end, the Metropolitan Police released a statement saying it was taking on a "small number of cases" to assess whether some of those involved have committed misconduct in public office. The Gambling Commission will continue to probe alleged breaches of the Gambling Act, it said.

The first audience member to grill the two leaders at the BBC debate said allegations of betting on the election have left many "dismayed".

Follow live general election updates

Sir Keir compared the scandal to 'partygate', saying: "You have to lead from the front on issues like this.

"When one of my team was alleged to have been involved and investigated by the Gambling Commission, they were suspended within minutes, because I knew it made it really important to be swift.

"The prime minister delayed and delayed and delayed until eventually he was bullied into taking action."

Mr Sunak responded: "It was important to me that given the seriousness and the sensitivity of the matters at hand that they were dealt with properly, and that's what I've done."

He added that he is "furious" and "frustrated" over the allegations.

Just like England at the Euros - Sunak and Starmer's final TV debate was a draw
'Are these the best two candidates we have?'

Police to look at claims of misconduct in public office

Scotland Yard was responding to reports in The Sun that the Met is taking over the entire Westminster gambling investigation.

It said in a statement on Wednesday evening: "The Met is not taking over the investigation into bets on the timing of the general election.

"The Gambling Commission will continue to lead the investigation into cases where the alleged offending is limited to breaches of the Gambling Act only.

"Met detectives will lead on investigating a small number of cases to assess whether the alleged offending goes beyond Gambling Act offences to include others, such as misconduct in public office. We will provide further information tomorrow."

At least five Conservatives have been embroiled in claims they placed bets on the vote, alongside one from Labour.

Wednesday's debate was the last before voters go to the ballot box on 4 July. A Sky News snap poll suggests the public viewed their performance equally.

Read more:
Labour member arrested over honeytrap scandal
Who would win if the election was tomorrow?
Simple guide to what each party is promising

The first section was somewhat overshadowed by loud shouting from protesters outside the building.

Referencing the noise, presenter Mishal Husain said the protest, which was in support of the people of Gaza, was an example of "democracy" and people "expressing their freedom of speech".

Throughout the 75-minute debate, Mr Sunak repeated pleas to stop Labour "surrendering" the public's finances and Britain's borders, claiming they will put up taxes if voted into Downing Street.

Sir Keir made several references to his experience as director of public prosecutions, suggesting it evidences his ability to "smash the gangs" behind people smuggling, reduce small boat crossings, and protect women's spaces.

Asked about gender recognition certificates for transgender people, both men agreed single-sex spaces should be defined by "biological sex". But Sir Keir said he wanted to "stop the business of always trying to divide people".

On getting people back to work, Mr Sunak put forward policies to tighten out-of-work benefits after 12 months.

Sir Keir said the answer is to reduce NHS waiting lists to ensure more people off long-term sick can re-enter the workforce. He also insisted that Tory promises of tax cuts are "unfunded".

Audience accuses leaders of being 'mediocre'

One member of the audience accused the prime minister of being "fairly mediocre", while also claiming Sir Keir was having his "strings pulled by senior members of the Labour Party".

In response, Mr Sunak said he "understood" people's frustrations - with the Tories - but also "with me" - imploring people to "think about what a Labour government would mean" for their finances and whether they can afford it.

Sir Keir referenced his working with the police on the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland as head of the Crown Prosecution Service and his reform of the Labour Party as proof he keeps to his word.

But he added that "after 14 years of this", he is not surprised people feel "the hope has been beaten out of them".

When quizzed by an audience member who had lost European business since Brexit, the Labour leader pledged to "get a better deal" with the EU.

Mr Sunak claimed, however, that would mean "freedom of movement through the back door".

On housing and the challenges of home ownership for young people, Mr Sunak repeated manifesto pledges to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers and re-introduce the right-to-buy scheme.

Sir Keir said he would work to reduce high rents that eradicate people's savings and introduce low-deposit mortgages.

Tories to address business leaders as Labour pledge on careers

The Conservatives are focusing on their business policies on Thursday, with trade secretary Kemi Badenoch set to speak at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference.

She will say: "We recognise that innovation and competition are the powerful forces that bring us prosperity and lift living standards.

"For Labour, on the other hand, private business is just a vehicle to pursue their political objectives - a managed economy, heavily regulated, heavily taxed and weighed down by trade union demands."

Labour, by contrast, is honing in on education, by promising two weeks' work experience for all young people.

The party says it will do this by recruiting 1,000 careers advisers and building relationships between employers, schools, and colleges.

Their analysis claims one million children risk not having access to the right job opportunities and career advice over the next five years - should the Conservatives stay in power.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson says one million young people could benefit from her plans.