Second Tory candidate faces Gambling Commission investigation into election bets

Cabinet minister Michael Gove said it would be ‘deeply wrong’ if anyone used inside information to bet on the election.

Three people with links to the Tories or Downing Street face investigation
Three people with links to the Tories or Downing Street face investigation (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

It would be “reprehensible” to use inside information to bet on the General Election date, Michael Gove said as three people with links to the Tories or Downing Street faced investigation.

Tory candidate Laura Saunders, who is married to the Tory Party’s campaign chief, is facing a Gambling Commission investigation into alleged betting offences.

News of that investigation followed the arrest of one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s police protection officers and a Gambling Commission investigation into his parliamentary aide Craig Williams over betting allegations.

Housing Secretary Mr Gove told the BBC: “If people have used inside information to place bets, that is deeply wrong.

“What I can’t do is sort of get too much into the detail of the case while an investigation is going on.

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

In response to the latest allegations about Bristol North West candidate Ms Saunders, 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 Gambling Commission said: “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.”

Ms Saunders is married to Tony Lee, the Conservative Party’s director of campaigning, the BBC reported.

She was the head of the international department at the Conservative Party, working with London embassies and the Tories’ sister parties overseas.

Ms Saunders had previously worked on organising campaign visits in the 2017 and 2019 elections.

The BBC reported that Mr Lee was taking a leave of absence from his role at Tory HQ, with just two weeks until polling day.

Liberal Democrats deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak must find his backbone and suspend Laura Saunders from the Conservative party whilst this investigation is ongoing.

“It would be an utter disgrace if Conservative politicians were shown to be more focused on turning a quick buck rather than the needs of the country.

“The Conservative party has proven itself utterly unfit for office. Voters are sick to the back teeth of this endless carousel of chaos, sleaze and scandal.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves face questions from journalists during a visit to Morrisons in Swindon
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves face questions from journalists during a visit to Morrisons in Swindon (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“People across the country are crying out for change and that is why in many areas they are backing the Liberal Democrats to get a strong local champion that will take their issues right to the heart of Parliament and not take them for granted any longer.”

It emerged last week that Mr Williams, who served as Mr Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary and is the Conservative candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, was under investigation after he “put a flutter” on when the election would take place.

On Wednesday the Metropolitan Police said they were informed by the Gambling Commission that a police constable from the force’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Command was being investigated over the alleged bets.

The police officer, who has been removed from operational duties, was bailed pending further inquiries after they were taken into custody on Monday on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.

The matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which said it will “make a decision on the level of IOPC involvement in due course”.

Mr Sunak previously said it was “very disappointing” that Mr Williams had allegedly placed a bet on the date of the General Election.

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey
Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey (Lucy North/PA)

Mr Williams, who was the Tory MP for Montgomery until the election was called and is the party’s candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, is alleged to have placed a £100 bet on a July polling day some three days before Mr Sunak named the date as July 4, at a Ladbrokes in his constituency.

He previously said he had clearly made a “huge error of judgment” but refused to say whether he placed a bet on the basis of insider information.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Mr Sunak will join three other party leaders in taking part in a BBC Question Time special.

The two-hour programme will see each leader appear one by one to face questions from the audience.

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer will also take part along with Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney for the SNP and Sir Ed Davey for the Liberal Democrats.

The latest televised election event comes after YouGov said the Conservatives are projected to slump to their “lowest seat tally in the party’s almost 200-year history” at the election.

YouGov said its latest study projects Labour to secure 425 seats, the Tories 108, the Liberal Democrats 67, the SNP 20, Reform UK five, Plaid Cymru four and the Green Party two.

It noted such a scenario would hand Sir Keir a 200-seat majority while it added Reform UK leader Nigel Farage is “likely” to win in Clacton.

YouGov used a technique known as multi-level regression and post-stratification (MRP) to model the outcome of the election in every constituency across Britain.

It said the estimated seat projections were based on modelled responses from 36,161 adults in England and Wales and 3,818 in Scotland between June 11 and 18.