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Election 2024: Sunak should suspend betting scandal Tories, Conservative minister suggests



Election 2024: Sunak should suspend betting scandal Tories, Conservative minister suggests

Rishi Sunak should suspend any Tories who placed bets on the general election date, a Government minister has suggested.

Steve Baker, the Northern Ireland minister, said if it were up to him, anyone who admitted to gambling on the timing of the ballot would be temporarily kicked out of the party.

He said it was for the Prime Minister to explain why he hadn’t taken any action to date, adding he had “no inside information” on Mr Sunak’s reasoning.

It will pile further pressure on the Prime Minister to suspend those caught up in the scandal, with Craig Williams, a Tory candidate and one of his closest aides, having already admitted to putting “a flutter” on the general election some weeks ago. He now faces an inquiry by the Gambling Commission.

Laura Saunders, another Conservative candidate, and her husband Tony Lee, the party’s director of campaigning, are also being investigated by the watchdog over alleged betting on the election date.

Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Monday night, Mr Baker said: “If they placed bets it was disreputable and I would call them up and ask them, did you do it? And if they did it, then they are suspended.”

He added: “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.”

Tobias Ellwood, the former Tory defence minister, also argued on Monday that Mr Sunak should have suspended the Conservative candidates caught up in the betting scandal.

Asked if the Prime Minister should have taken that action, he told the BBC: “Given the scale of this as we see now and the potential for this story to continue to eclipse, to overshadow the election, I would now agree.

“I am not sure anyone, including the Prime Minister, could have predicted the number of people involved when this story first broke. The public want to see clear, robust action now.

“The practical dilemma you face, though, is were individuals responding to the whirlwind of the rumour mill around Westminster at the time… about a pending election announcement, or were they in the room when the decision was made?

“If it was the latter, the party can take immediate action. Otherwise it is for the Gambling Commission to rightly make that judgement.”

On Monday, Mr Sunak, who has ordered an internal inquiry to run separately to the Gambling Commission’s investigation, said he was “incredibly angry when I learned about the allegations, as everybody would be when they would hear about something like that”.

He said he was not aware of any other Tory candidates being investigated but stressed that any internal inquiries by the Conservative Party must not “compromise the integrity of… police and other investigations”.

Meanwhile, Sir Iain Duncan-Smith said that he was “opposed to people associated with politics betting on political outcomes in general”.

The former Tory leader told The Guardian: “You can either do it by the party saying it won’t be tolerated, or you could do it by legislation. If you start relying on legislation, it would be a complex process.

“Parties are capable of saying that anyone who does this shouldn’t be in the party. They can move quicker than governments.”

He added: “But one way or the other, it needs to be made clear that the public takes a dim view of it and it shouldn’t happen. It’s a matter for the next parliament.”

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