Betting watchdog looks into Tory campaign official

Gambling watchdog probe into Tory campaign official

2 hours agoBy Chris Mason, Political editor, @ChrisMasonBBC • Laura Kuenssberg, Presenter, Sunday with Laura KuenssbergReuters

The Conservative Party’s director of campaigning Tony Lee is also being looked into by the Gambling Commission over an alleged bet relating to the timing of the general election, the BBC can reveal.

The BBC reported earlier that Mr Lee – who took a leave of absence from his job on Wednesday afternoon – is married to a Conservative candidate who is being looked into by the betting industry regulator.

Laura Saunders, the party’s candidate in Bristol North West, has worked for the Tories since 2015 and is married to Mr Lee.

It is not known when either individual placed a bet or for how much money.

Laura Saunders and Tony Lee have been approached for comment by the BBC and have not responded.

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

“As the Gambling Commission is an independent body, it wouldn’t be proper to comment further, until any process is concluded.”

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.”

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.

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

Last week it was alleged that one of Rishi Sunak’s closest aides, Craig Williams, placed a £100 bet on a July polling day three days before the PM named the date .

Mr Williams, who was the Tory MP for Montgomery until the election was called and is standing again in the new constituency of Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, previously apologised and said he made a “huge error of judgement”.

When asked by the BBC, he refused to say whether he placed a bet on the basis of inside information.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both called for Ms Saunders and Mr Williams to be suspended as Conservative candidates.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “It’s very telling that Rishi Sunak has not already done that.

“If it was one of my candidates, they’d be gone and their feet would not have touched the floor.”

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “It would be an utter disgrace if Conservative politicians were shown to be more focussed on turning a quick buck rather than the needs of the country.”

Election bet probe: Starmer calls for Tory candidate suspension

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said it would be “deeply wrong” if anyone had used “inside information” to place bets.

“What I can’t do is sort of get too much into the detail of the case while an investigation is going on,” he told the BBC

“But I can talk about the broad principle and you’re absolutely right, it’s reprehensible.”

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.

Labour’s campaign coordinator Pat McFadden has written to the prime minister questioning why Ms Saunders and Mr Williams are still being allowed to stand as Tory candidates, when a serving police officer has been suspended from his role following allegations he made a bet on the timing of the election.

“Surely you can understand that – yet again – this looks as though there is one rule for members of the Tory party, and another rule for everyone else, specifically on this occasion a serving police officer,” he wrote.

You can find a full list of candidates for the Bristol North West and Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr constituencies on the BBC News website.

Additional reporting by Becky Morton

Conservative PartyGeneral election 2024

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