Minister calls for betting scandal suspensions as Tories look to immigration

The Conservatives are to focus on immigration as they seek to move on from the scandal threatening to derail their campaign.

Rishi Sunak faces further pressure to suspend the Conservatives alleged to have placed bets on the date of the General Election
Rishi Sunak faces further pressure to suspend the Conservatives alleged to have placed bets on the date of the General Election (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Rishi Sunak is facing pressure to suspend Conservative candidates implicated in the General Election betting scandal after a serving minister added his voice to calls for action.

Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker said placing bets on the election date was “disreputable” and he would have suspended anyone who had done so.

Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Monday evening, Mr Baker said: “I would call them up and ask them, ‘Did you do it?’ And if they did it, then they are suspended.

“But the Prime Minister would have to answer why he hasn’t done it, I haven’t got inside information on why the Prime Minister hasn’t done it.”

Mr Baker joins other Conservatives such as former defence minister Tobias Ellwood in calling for the suspension of the four Tories alleged to have placed bets on the election date.

They are the Prime Minister’s former parliamentary aide Craig Williams, who has admitted to a “huge error of judgment” in placing “a flutter” on the election date, along with the party’s chief data officer Nick Mason, director of campaigning Tony Lee, and Laura Saunders, a candidate in Bristol North West and Mr Lee’s wife.

But Mr Sunak insisted on Monday that it was “proper” to wait for the outcome of investigations by the Gambling Commission, the police and the Conservative Party itself as he struggled to move on from the scandal engulfing his campaign.

On Tuesday, the Conservatives are to turn to the issue of immigration in an attempt to make a dent in Labour’s persistently large poll lead.

Home Secretary James Cleverly and his Labour opposite number Yvette Cooper will go head-to-head on Tuesday morning in a debate on immigration on LBC.

In the run-up to the debate, the pair traded blows in the Daily Telegraph, with Mr Cleverly claiming Labour would turn the UK into the “asylum capital of the world” and offer an “amnesty” to people who crossed the Channel in small boats.

He pointed to reports in the Telegraph claiming some would-be migrants in France were waiting for a Labour government before they made a crossing, something the Prime Minister himself referred to on Monday, saying people were “queuing up in Calais waiting for a Starmer government”.

In her own Telegraph article, Ms Cooper pointed to rising numbers of people making the crossing this year and argued that Mr Sunak’s policies “are clearly not working”.

She said: “All ministers have offered are headline-grabbing gimmicks and empty promises. We can’t carry on like this. Instead of more rhetoric, we need a serious plan.”

Labour is set to focus on knife crime, with Sir Keir Starmer saying reducing such offences will be a “moral mission” if he enters Number 10.

Sir Keir Starmer is to focus on knife crime
Sir Keir Starmer is to focus on knife crime (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The party has promised a five-step plan to tackle the problem, including guaranteed sanctions for young people carrying knives, and Sir Keir has pledged to chair an annual summit to track progress towards his goal of halving knife crime within a decade.

Sir Ed Davey will launch the Liberal Democrats’ six-page mini-manifesto on care, highlighting pledges already made in the party’s main policy document.

The Lib Dems have already put care “right at the centre” of their campaign and the issue is close to Sir Ed’s heart, having been a carer as a teenager for his mother, and more recently for his disabled son.

Sir Ed said: “We are putting forward a bold and ambitious plan to make sure everyone can get the support they need – people who need care, the amazing care workers who provide it, and the unpaid family carers who provide it too.”