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General election: Tory former minister says public wants ‘robust action’ from government on betting scandal – UK politics live


Tory former minister says public wants ‘robust action’ from government on betting scandal

Good morning. We’re at the start of the last full week of the general election campaign, and Rishi Sunak’s campaign, which has been calamity-struck since he announced it soaking wet in a downpour, is still embroiled in the election date betting scandal. Here is our overnight story by Eleni Courea and Matthew Weaver.

This morning Tobias Ellwood, the Tory former minister and candidate in Bournemouth East, said Sunak should be doing more to limit the damage to the party caused by the controversy. Asked if he thought Sunak should have suspended the two candidates who are being investigated by the Gambling Commission over alleged suspect bets, Ellwood replied:

Given the scale of this, as we see now, and the potential for the story to continue to eclipse, to overshadow, the election. I would now agree.

I’m not sure anyone, including the prime minister, could have predicted the number of people involved when the story first broke. The public wants to see clearer, robust action.

Ellwood acknowledged the party faced a problem. He said it was not clear if those people being investigated were “in the room when the [election date] decision was made”, in which case the party could take immediate action. But if they were just responding to Westminster rumours, then it was for the Gambling Commission to decide if they were in the wrong, he said.

But Ellwood said the government could go further to reassure the public. He went on:

Let’s introduce clear rules, as you have in the City in connection to the purchase of stocks and shares for example, let’s prevent any current politician or party professional from placing any bets in the future. That will send a clear message to the public that this sad incident is being taken seriously and it won’t happen again.

Ellwood also said the thought the scandal would cost the Conservative party seats. “I have no doubt about it,” he said.

In a subsequent interview on the Today programme, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary who is standing down as an MP, was asked if he thought Sunak should have suspended the two candidates being investigated. He replied:

I think what you’re trying to suggest is that someone is guilty until they’re proven innocent and that is not how this works.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, is on a visit in south London.

9.20am: Keir Starmer and Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, are visiting a school in the East Midlands where they will be taking part in a Q&A

10am: Gavin Robinson launches the DUP’s manifesto in Belfast.

10am: The Institute for Fiscal Studies holds a briefing on the parties’ election manifestos.

Morning: Rishi Sunak launches the Scottish Conservatives election in Edinburgh with Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader.

Lunchtime: Nigel Farage, the Reform UK leader, holds a rally in Maidstone.

12.30pm: Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, takes part in a debate with Jonathan Reynolds, her Labour shadow, on Bloomberg TV.

5.30pm: Starmer and Sunak are interviewed back to back by Harry Cole, the paper’s political editor, and an audience of readers on Sun TV.

If you want to contact me, please post a message below the line (BTL) or message me on X (Twitter). I can’t read all the messages BTL, but if you put “Andrew” in a message aimed at me, I am more likely to see it because I search for posts containing that word. If you want to flag something up urgently, it is best to use X; I’ll see something addressed to @AndrewSparrow very quickly. I find it very helpful when readers point out mistakes, even minor typos (no error is too small to correct). And I find your questions very interesting too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either BTL or sometimes in the blog.

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Key events

Keir Starmer and Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, have been doing a Q&A with pupils at a school in Kettering. In his opening remarks, Starmer defended Labour’s plans to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds for all elections. They can already vote in devolved elections in Scotland and Wales, but they can’t vote in any English elections, or in any general elections.

Keir Starmer and Bridget Phillipson at a school in Kettering this morning. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Small boat arrivals reach record high for first six months of year, up 17% on total for same period in 2023

The number of migrants arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel has hit a new record for the first six months of a calendar year, PA Media reports. PA says:

Home Office figures show 257 people made the journey in four boats on Sunday, taking the provisional total for the year so far to 12,901.

The previous record for arrivals in the six months from January to June was 12,747 in 2022. In the first half of 2023, arrivals stood at 11,433.

The 2024 total to date is 17% higher than the number of arrivals recorded this time last year (11,058) and up 8% on the same period in 2022 (11,975).

Last year a total of 29,437 migrants arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel, down 36% on a record 45,774 in 2022.

More than 3,000 arrivals have now been recorded since the general election was called on 22 May (3,019), with immigration a key campaign battleground.

Labour and Tories ‘ducking hard choices’ on tax and spending, says IFS

The hard choices on tax and spending that will face Britain’s next government are being ducked by Labour and the Conservatives, leaving voters operating in a knowledge vacuum. the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said. Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, is speaking at an event now presening an IFS analysis of the various manifestos, but Larry Elliott has the story based on a text of his opening remarks sent out earlier under embargo. It’s here.

Tories and Labour accuse each other of trying to exploit Gambling Commission for political advantage

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, accused Labour this morning of trying to pressurise the Gambling Commission for party political advantage.

Referring to the open letter sent by Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, to the commission saying it should name the people it is investigating, Heaton-Harris said:

The leader of Labour’s campaign Pat McFadden wrote to try and put some undue influence on the Gambling Commission over the weekend. I think that is actually pretty concerning in itself, Labour trying to lean on yet another independent body like it lent on the speaker of the House of Commons not to have a vote on Gaza.

But Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary who was doing media interviews for Labour this morning, accused the Tories of using the commission to provide political cover from the ongoing election date betting scandal.

He complained about “the audacity of the Conservative party to hide behind the Gambling Commission” and went on:

I think people should greet with enormous suspicion, the fact that the Conservatives are trying to cover up in the middle of an election campaign, which of their candidates is under investigation for serious wrongdoing.

The Conservative party has declined to answer detailed questions about the allegations, such as how many of its candidates and officials are under investigation, what bets they placed and when they knew about the timing of the election, arguing it is not allowed to comment because the commission is carrying out its own investigation.

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Wes Streeting says Labour should ‘engage seriously’ with concerns JK Rowling raises about trans policy

This morning the Times has splashed on a story about Labour’s plan to make it easier for trans people to get a gender recognition certificate (GRC), giving legal confirmation that they have changed gender. In her story Geraldine Scott says:

[Under current rules people wanting a GRC] are required to submit proof that they have changed genders, which can include official documents such as utility bills or passports, or even library cards or supermarket loyalty cards.

Officials insist on two years’ worth of documentation to ensure the person is prepared for a permanent change. However, The Times has learnt that Labour will ditch the requirement in an attempt to “remove indignities for trans people who deserve recognition and acceptance”.

Instead, transgender people will be required to undergo an effective cooling-off period for two years after their application for a GRC is submitted. A single doctor specialising in gender issues will be able to provide a medical report supporting the change to their new gender.

It has long been known that Labour plans to simplify the GRC process, but the issue is contentious because the Conservatives have attacked Labour relentless over its trans policy and at the weekend the author JK Rowling, a gender critical campaigner, said in an article in the Times that she would struggle to vote Labour because she thought Keir Starmer and others in the party were dismisive of women’s rights.

In an interview with Times Radio this morning Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said that he felt “pretty depressed” reading Rowling’s article because it showed the party had more to do on this issue to rebuild trust with feminists. He also said the party should “engage seriously” with her arguments.

I have a lot of respect for JK Rowling both in terms of what she’s done for children and literacy but also the work that she’s done campaigning for women and in particular violence against women and girls.

I think that we’ve clearly got more work to do to rebuild trust with people that we’ve lost on this issue.

Streeting said that at times biological women felt excluded. He explained:

I think at times in pursuit of inclusion we’ve ended up in a position where women have felt excluded, biological women have felt excluded. And there are practical examples of this in terms of things like NHS language and documentation.

He added:

I think we can find a way through that both treats trans people with the dignity and respect that they deserve, and also treats women with the respect that they deserve, particularly protecting women’s spaces, women’s voices, and right to speak up.

So, when women like JK Rowling do speak up, I think it’s important we engage seriously with the arguments that she’s making, with the concerns that she has.

And also we listen to what trans people are saying about the everyday injustices and indignities that they’re experiencing too, whether that’s hate crime or poor provision in public services.

Wes Streeting. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing/Getty Images

Stella Creasy ‘not intimidated’ after attack on her London office

The Labour candidate Stella Creasy has said she will not be intimidated after a window and door of her office in north-east London was smashed by an attacker, Peter Walker reports.

The election date betting scandal first became public when it was reported that Craig Williams, who was Rishi Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary in the last parliament was being investigated over a bet he placed on a July election three days before the election was announced. He told the BBC that was a “huge error of judgment”.

In an interview this morning Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, claimed the party did not know if Williams was acting on the basis of inside knowledge. He told LBC:

It needs to be determined whether or not [Williams] had prior knowledge …

He said he made a bet and that was a mistake. We don’t know and I don’t believe anybody does know, maybe the Gambling Commission do … but we don’t know whether he did that with prior knowledge or whether that was just a hunch or whatever.

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Tory former minister says public wants ‘robust action’ from government on betting scandal

Good morning. We’re at the start of the last full week of the general election campaign, and Rishi Sunak’s campaign, which has been calamity-struck since he announced it soaking wet in a downpour, is still embroiled in the election date betting scandal. Here is our overnight story by Eleni Courea and Matthew Weaver.

This morning Tobias Ellwood, the Tory former minister and candidate in Bournemouth East, said Sunak should be doing more to limit the damage to the party caused by the controversy. Asked if he thought Sunak should have suspended the two candidates who are being investigated by the Gambling Commission over alleged suspect bets, Ellwood replied:

Given the scale of this, as we see now, and the potential for the story to continue to eclipse, to overshadow, the election. I would now agree.

I’m not sure anyone, including the prime minister, could have predicted the number of people involved when the story first broke. The public wants to see clearer, robust action.

Ellwood acknowledged the party faced a problem. He said it was not clear if those people being investigated were “in the room when the [election date] decision was made”, in which case the party could take immediate action. But if they were just responding to Westminster rumours, then it was for the Gambling Commission to decide if they were in the wrong, he said.

But Ellwood said the government could go further to reassure the public. He went on:

Let’s introduce clear rules, as you have in the City in connection to the purchase of stocks and shares for example, let’s prevent any current politician or party professional from placing any bets in the future. That will send a clear message to the public that this sad incident is being taken seriously and it won’t happen again.

Ellwood also said the thought the scandal would cost the Conservative party seats. “I have no doubt about it,” he said.

In a subsequent interview on the Today programme, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary who is standing down as an MP, was asked if he thought Sunak should have suspended the two candidates being investigated. He replied:

I think what you’re trying to suggest is that someone is guilty until they’re proven innocent and that is not how this works.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, is on a visit in south London.

9.20am: Keir Starmer and Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, are visiting a school in the East Midlands where they will be taking part in a Q&A

10am: Gavin Robinson launches the DUP’s manifesto in Belfast.

10am: The Institute for Fiscal Studies holds a briefing on the parties’ election manifestos.

Morning: Rishi Sunak launches the Scottish Conservatives election in Edinburgh with Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader.

Lunchtime: Nigel Farage, the Reform UK leader, holds a rally in Maidstone.

12.30pm: Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, takes part in a debate with Jonathan Reynolds, her Labour shadow, on Bloomberg TV.

5.30pm: Starmer and Sunak are interviewed back to back by Harry Cole, the paper’s political editor, and an audience of readers on Sun TV.

If you want to contact me, please post a message below the line (BTL) or message me on X (Twitter). I can’t read all the messages BTL, but if you put “Andrew” in a message aimed at me, I am more likely to see it because I search for posts containing that word. If you want to flag something up urgently, it is best to use X; I’ll see something addressed to @AndrewSparrow very quickly. I find it very helpful when readers point out mistakes, even minor typos (no error is too small to correct). And I find your questions very interesting too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either BTL or sometimes in the blog.

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