LONDON: Rishi Sunak’s beleaguered election campaign has been thrown into fresh turmoil over allegations that several staff close to him bet on the date of the election before it was called.
One of Sunak’s close protection officers, his campaign director and the director’s wife, and one of his key parliamentary aides are under investigation by the Gambling Commission for “insider betting” for bets they made on the election date.
Sunak’s campaign director, Tony Lee, took leave of absence on Wednesday from Conservative Campaign Headquarters.
According to the Independent newspaper, Lee and his wife, Laura Saunders, Conservative candidate for Bristol North West, are being investigated by the Gambling Commission for a bet placed on the general election date.
On Monday a police constable working as part of Sunak’s protection team was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office over alleged bets made related to the timing of the election, the Met said. He was taken into custody, bailed and has been removed from operational duties.
Last week it emerged that Craig Williams, parliamentary private secretary to Sunak and hitherto Tory MP for Montgomeryshire, was also facing a Gambling Commission probe. He is alleged to have placed a £100 (Rs 10,600) bet at odds of 5/1 on a July polling date three days before the July 4 election was called. He said: “I put a flutter on the general election some weeks ago. I should have thought through how it looks.”
A spokesperson for the Gambling Commission said: “Currently the commission is investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election. This is an ongoing investigation. We are not confirming or denying the identity of any individuals involved.”
If someone uses confidential informationto gain an unfair advantage when betting, this may constitute an offence of cheating under the Gambling Act, which is a criminal offence.
A Conservative spokesman said: “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.”
The Tories on Thursday quietly deleted a gambling-themed advert from X which told voters “if you bet on Labour you can never win”. The advert featured a spinning roulette wheel and the only options for the ball to land on were “more debt” or “more tax”.