Sunak Vows to Expel Tories If Found Breaking Betting Rules

Allegations that political insiders profited from the election date are overshadowing the Conservative Party’s general election campaign.
Sunak Vows to Expel Tories If Found Breaking Betting Rules
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issues a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, on May 22, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Owen Evans

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday that Tories found breaking gambling rules “should face the full force of the law.”

The prime minister said he was “incredibly angry” to learn of allegations that individuals linked to the Conservative Party or Number 10 had bet on the timing of the July 4 general election before its announcement.

Over the past week, there have been several allegations that there were a flood of bets the day before Mr. Sunak announced the election.

Asked about it on Thursday night’s BBC “Question Time” leaders’ debate, he said, “I was incredibly angry, incredibly angry, to learn of these allegations.”

“It’s a really serious matter. It’s right that they’re being investigated properly by the relevant law enforcement authorities, including a criminal investigation by the police.

“I want to be crystal clear that if anyone has broken the rules, they should face the full force of the law.”

‘Huge Error’

Last week Tory candidate Craig Williams told the BBC, “I clearly made a huge error of judgment, that’s for sure, and I apologise.”

“The Gambling Commission are looking at it now,” he added.

At least two other individuals are also being investigated over wagers placed on the date of the general election.

Conservative candidate Laura Saunders said she “will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission” probe, while her husband, the Tories’ director of campaigning Tony Lee, took a leave of absence amid reports the couple were being investigated by the gambling regulator.

In a statement released on Ms. Saunders’s behalf, Nama Zarroug, a solicitor at Astraea Linskills, said: “As the Conservative Party has already stated, investigations are ongoing.

“Ms Saunders will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission and has nothing further to add.

“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 Gambling Commission spokesman told The Epoch Times by email: “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.”

‘He Needs to Take Tough Action’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr. Sunak of a “total lack of leadership.”

“Let’s look at what actually happened. In relation to a general election, the instincts of these Tories when a general election is called is not, ‘how do we make this work for the country?’ but ‘how do I make some money?’ And that tells you a broader picture about politics,” he said.

“Of course, he should suspend these candidates. If they were my candidates, they’d be gone by now, out of the door. He needs to take tough action. He’s not even saying today whether there are more involved,” he added.

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, until any process is concluded.”

The Epoch Times contacted the Conservative Party for further comment.

PA Media contributed to this report.
Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.