Sunak’s closest aide Craig Williams says he made ‘huge error of judgement’ betting on election date

Craig Williams MP is Rishi Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary (UK Parliament )
Craig Williams MP is Rishi Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary (UK Parliament )

Rishi Sunak’s closest aide has said he made a “huge error of judgement” on a general election bet he made that is being investigated by the Gambling Commission.

Craig Williams, the prime minister’s private secretary, apologised after admitting that he placed a bet on what date the election would be held days before the prime minister announced it on 22 May.

It is understood the Gambling Commission (GC), which has launched an inquiry into the incident, informed Downing Street officials of the bet last week.

Mr Williams, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Montgomeryshire, said he would not comment further while the GC carried out its work.

“I clearly made a huge error of judgment, that’s for sure, and I apologise,” he told the BBC earlier on Thursday. “I will not be expanding on my statement because it’s an independent process.”

Using confidential information to gain an unfair advantage when betting may constitute a criminal offence.

Additionally, the MPs’ code of conduct bars members from “causing significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the house”. The bet was allegedly placed while parliament was still in session.

The bet was flagged automatically by Ladbrokes, the betting company with which Mr Williams placed the wager.

Mr Williams placed a £100 bet with 5-1 odds, meaning he would have won £500, but his name was raised as potentially a “politically exposed person”, so the wager was not registered.

The bookmaker is believed to be particularly cautious over “novelty” betting markets such as the general election.

Craig Williams MP is pictured alongise Rishi Sunak (@craig4monty)
Craig Williams MP is pictured alongise Rishi Sunak (@craig4monty)

According to The Guardian, which first reported the story, the bet was placed via an online account that would have required Mr Williams to provide personal details, including his date of birth and debit card.

The bookmaker also knows the location of the bet. Ladbrokes declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the GC said using inside information to gain an unfair advantage when betting could constitute a criminal offence.

The commission said it does not typically confirm or deny whether investigations are underway unless or until they have concluded.

Lord David Cameron, the foreign secretary, said Mr Williams had made a “clearly very foolish decision” by betting on the election date.

“His situation, having made this clearly very foolish decision, is he is being investigated by the Gambling Commission - and they have considerable powers in terms of what the consequences could be,” he told BBC Breakfast

“I think we have to let the investigation take place and so I can’t really comment further on it.”

Opposition parties have called on the Tories to withdraw their support for Mr Williams, who is defending a majority of 12,138 in the mid-Wales seat.

Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson, said it was “incumbent” on the PM to suspend Mr Williams while the GC investigates him.

The disclosure, revealed just minutes before Mr Sunak took part in a live TV debate on Wednesday night, was another headache for the prime minister’s faltering election campaign.

Sunak and Starmer take part  in Sky TV debate (Sky News)
Sunak and Starmer take part in Sky TV debate (Sky News)

A snap poll following the debate gave Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer a huge win over the PM, who launched his party’s manifesto just a day earlier, promising to cut taxes and halve immigration.

A YouGov survey conducted after Sky’s Battle for Number 10 found that two-thirds of voters felt the Labour leader performed better than Mr Sunak in the clash.

Some 64 per cent said Sir Keir performed better, with 36 per cent saying the prime minister was the winner. YouGov spoke to 1,864 voters shortly after the conclusion of the debate, during which the two leaders were grilled on their plans for government.

It followed another frantic day on the campaign trail, during which Mr Sunak was forced to push back on suggestions that Labour was on course for a “supermajority” come 5 July.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, claimed that Labour could record an even bigger victory than the 1997 landslide won by Tony Blair as he urged Reform voters to back his party.

His comments came after Tory HQ published an advertisement on Facebook claiming that votes for Reform and the Liberal Democrats could see Labour win up to 490 seats, leaving the Conservatives with just 57, in the latest sign of how defensive the party’s election campaign has become.

“That’s not what I’m saying,” the PM told reporters on the Tory election battle bus as he travelled to Lincolnshire ahead of the debate.

“And every time someone says something to me about a poll, I always give you guys the same answer, which you’ve heard me say multiple times. The poll that matters is the one on July 4.”

Sir Keir, campaigning in Grimsby ahead of the TV grilling, denied that the election was a foregone conclusion, saying he was fighting for every vote.

“No, we know that we have to earn every vote,” he told broadcasters.

The Labour leader launched his party’s manifesto at an event in Manchester on Thursday morning, promising to make wealth creation his “number one priority”.