Sunak 'incredibly angry' over alleged election betting

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking during a BBC Question Time Leaders' Special in York.
[PA Media]

Rishi Sunak has said he was "incredibly angry" to learn of allegations that Tory insiders were betting on the election and promised to "boot out" anyone found to have broken gambling laws.

Four people linked to the prime minister are being looked into over allegations of bets- including the Conservative Party’s director of campaigning Tony Lee and a police officer in Mr Sunak's close protection team.

Two Tory election candidates - Laura Saunders and Craig Williams - have confirmed they were being looked into by the Gambling Commission.

Asked about the cases at special election edition of BBC's Question Time, Mr Sunak said he was "incredibly angry, incredibly angry, to learn of these allegations".

Speaking to the audience he said: "It's a really serious matter - it's right that they're being investigated properly by the relevant law enforcement authorities.

"The integrity of that process should be respected.

"But what I can tell you is if anyone is found to have broken the rules, not only should they face the full consequences of the law, I will make sure that they are booted out of the Conservative Party."

A graphic which reads 'more on general election 2024'
[BBC]

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Question Time audience some politicians "think that making money or self entitlement is the reason they're in politics, so we need to return it to service".

In response to Mr Sunak's comments, Liberal Democrat spokesperson Munira Wilson said: "If he was truly angry about this scandal these Conservative candidates would have been suspended.

“He is more interested in taking away young people’s bank accounts if they don’t do National Service than investing in their education."

In a statement release earlier via solicitors Ms Saunders, the party’s candidate in Bristol North West, said she "will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission and has nothing further to add".

It is not known when the bet was placed or for how much money.

The statement added: "It is inappropriate to conduct any investigation of this kind via the media, and doing so risks jeopardising the work of the Gambling Commission and the integrity of its investigation.

"The publication of the BBC's story is premature and is a clear infringement of Ms Saunders' privacy rights.

"She is considering legal action against the BBC and any other publishers who infringe her privacy rights."

A BBC spokesperson said: “We are confident in our journalism.

"As Laura Saunders is a candidate standing for election, it is clearly in the public interest to report allegations made against her."

The betting watchdog is also looking into Mr Lee - who is Ms Saunders' husband - over an alleged bet relating to the timing of the 4 July election.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both called on the Conservatives to suspend Ms Saunders and Craig Williams as Conservative candidates over political bets.

Last week Mr Williams, who had been a parliamentary aide to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, apologised and said he had made a “huge error of judgement” over betting on the date of the general election.

Mr Williams, the Conservative candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, allegedly placed a £100 bet on a July election three days before Mr Sunak announced the date.

Mr Sunak's announced 4 July as the date of the general election on 22 May, taking much of Westminster by surprise.

A Conservative Party spokesman told the BBC: “We have been contacted by the Gambling Commission about a small number of individuals."

The party said it would not be proper to comment further until any process was finished.

If someone uses confidential information to gain an unfair advantage when betting, this could be a criminal offence under section 42 of the Gambling Act.

On Wednesday, it emerged that a police officer working as part of the prime minister’s close protection team had been arrested following an allegation of bets on the timing of the election.

The officer was initially suspended by the Metropolitan Police and then arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office.

The individual has been bailed pending further inquiries.

The Met was contacted by the Gambling Commission last Friday. It informed the force that it was investigating alleged bets made by a police constable from the Met's Royalty and Specialist Protection Command.

A spokesperson for the Gambling Commission said: “The Gambling Commission regulates gambling in the interests of consumers and the wider public.

"Currently the Commission is investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election. This is an ongoing investigation, and the Commission cannot provide any further details at this time.

"We are not confirming or denying the identity of any individuals involved in this investigation."