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Tories withdraw support from candidates over election betting allegations

25 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Craig Williams. Photo by David Woolfall (CC BY 3.0).

Rishi Sunak has pulled support from candidates Craig Williams and Laura Saunders over the General Election betting row.

The Prime Minister acted after coming under mounting pressure within the party to take a tougher stance on the alleged use of inside information to bet on the timing of the July 4 poll.

In a sign of the wider scope of the Gambling Commission’s investigation, the watchdog passed information to the Metropolitan Police alleging that five more officers had placed bets related to the timing of the poll.

The row has overshadowed the Tory election campaign in recent days as Mr Sunak battles to close his party’s 21-point average poll deficit to Labour.

Parliamentary aide

Mr Williams, who was the Prime Minister’s parliamentary aide, and Ms Saunders who is standing in Bristol North West, will no longer have the support of the party.

Because nominations have closed, Mr Williams – who is standing in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr – and Ms Saunders will both still be on the ballot paper.

But a Conservative Party spokesman said: “As a result of ongoing internal inquiries, we have concluded that we can no longer support Craig Williams or Laura Saunders as parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election.

“We have checked with the Gambling Commission that this decision does not compromise the investigation that they are conducting, which is rightly independent and ongoing.”

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard said five more officers – in addition to a member of Mr Sunak’s protection team who was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of misconduct in a public office – were alleged to have placed bets.

The officers are based on the Royalty and Specialist Command, the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and the Central West Basic Command Unit, but none of them work in a close protection role.

Criminal investigation

A Met Police spokesman said: “It is still the case that only one officer is under criminal investigation.

“We have, however, been passed information from the Gambling Commission alleging that five further officers have placed bets related to the timing of the election.

“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.”

Decisions on whether the five officers will be subject to any restrictions will be taken in due course, the Met said.

As well as the parliamentary candidates, two senior Tory officials have taken a leave of absence at a crucial point in the election campaign, after being drawn into the Gambling Commission investigation.

Ms Saunders’s husband Tony Lee, the party’s director of campaigning, and chief data officer Nick Mason have stepped back from their duties.

Damaging

The Prime Minister had faced demands from within the party to act on the candidates over concerns the issue was further damaging the Conservatives’ electoral chances.

Following the decision to pull support, Tory peer and former Brexit secretary Lord Frost said: “We get there in the end.

“But why did it take so long to come to a decision that seemed so necessary right from the start?”

Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker called for those who placed bets on the election date to be suspended by the party on Monday night, saying “the Prime Minister would have to answer” for why he had not acted by then.

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “It is yet another example of Rishi Sunak’s staggeringly weak leadership that it has taken him nearly two weeks to see what was obvious to everyone else.

“The Conservatives who sought to line their own pockets by betting on the election date are not fit to be candidates for Parliament.

“Rishi Sunak now needs to come clean with voters across the country and tell them exactly how many of his Conservatives are implicated and who they are.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This should have happened immediately when these scandalous revelations emerged, but instead Rishi Sunak has dithered and delayed.”

Meanwhile the Met said it was “simply untrue” to say the force had leaked the names of people suspected of using inside information to bet on the July 4 date.

A source close to the Cabinet Office told the Daily Telegraph the Gambling Commission is telling the Met “and then almost instantly these names are finding their way to journalists”.

A Met spokesman said: “The allegations that the Met has leaked information are simply untrue.”


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Steve Woods
Steve Woods
20 days ago

Too little, too late, Tories.

Ieu
Ieu
20 days ago

So if the party has withdrawn their backing, does that mean they’ll be independents if they win?

CapM
CapM
20 days ago
Reply to  Ieu

They could chose to stay as independents.
or until they are /if they are readmitted.
They could also apply to other parties.
Reform would probably ask them.

CapM
CapM
20 days ago

Poor lad.
You’d have thought he’d head butted Princess Ann

John Ellis
John Ellis
20 days ago

It’ll be interesting to see if this will appear to have a discernible effect on the outcome of the election in Montgomeryshire, given that a number of opinion pollsters have previously predicted that it’s one of the very few Welsh Westminster constituencies still likely to return a Tory MP.

After all, given that candidate nominations are now closed and ballot papers will have been printed, Craig Williams’s name will still be on them, and he’ll appear as ‘the Conservative candidate’ – even though, as of today, he no longer is!

Last edited 20 days ago by John Ellis
Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
20 days ago
Reply to  John Ellis

A large part of the electorate in the southern Wrexham do not know they are now in that constituency.

John Ellis
John Ellis
20 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

Indeed: that’s an entirely novel factor which might have a significant impact.

Erisian
Erisian
20 days ago

I’d be very grateful if you would stop showing pictures of that awful smug grin (with Tory-boy attatched). It’s been putting me off my dinner for days now.

Geraint
Geraint
20 days ago

Currently they have not yet been found guilty of anything. If they are given the benefit of the doubt by voters and are elected as MPs they could still face a trial. If they are found guilty then they could be reported to the standards committee. A ruling from this could lead to a suspension that could then result in a recall election.

Last edited 20 days ago by Geraint
Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
20 days ago
Reply to  Geraint

The candidate himself says it was “an error of judgement, not an offence”. So at a minimum a cheat, a person looking for personal gain at every opportunity, a political idiot? It may be hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a criminal offence has occurred but it is a far lower bar for a voter to decide that he is not trustworthy..

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
20 days ago

The man has shown himself not to be trustworthy. How could he ever be in Government or in a position of trust since he has shown how he may be tempted to use inside information for his own personal gain?

David Thomas
David Thomas
20 days ago

In what sense has Sunak “pulled support” from Craig Williams, when the local Tory MS has subsequently endorsed him?!

Rob
Rob
20 days ago

If you live in Powys or any constituency with a Tory MP, then please please vote tactically. Don’t be complacent as to what the polls are saying. Lets make Wales a tory free nation. Furthermore this could be an opportunity to condemn them to third place, where Ed Davey would be the opposition leader instead of the tory leader. The chances of this maybe slim, but if its possible then we should take it, we may regret it otherwise.
https://stopthetories.vote/

Last edited 20 days ago by Rob

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