Sunak aide under investigation for bet on election date

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An aide to Rishi Sunak is under investigation after he placed a £100 bet on a July election just days before his boss announced the date of the vote, a development that risks further unsettling the Conservative party’s campaign.

Craig Williams, who is principal private secretary to Sunak, has been placed under investigation by the Gambling Commission over the bet placed with bookmaker Ladbrokes.

In a statement on Wednesday, Williams, who was elected MP for Montgomeryshire in 2019, said he thought it was “best to be totally transparent”. He confirmed he had been contacted by the commission over the bet and said he would co-operate with the investigation.

“I put a flutter on the general election some weeks ago. This has resulted in some routine inquiries and I confirm I will fully co-operate with these,” he said. “I don’t want it to be a distraction from the campaign. I should have thought through how it looks.”

The bet, first reported by The Guardian, will hamper Sunak at a time when he is attempting to revive his party’s election campaign as it trails the opposition Labour party by about 20 points in the polls.

Sunak on Tuesday launched a manifesto pledging more than £17bn in tax cuts — but the proposals were attacked by some on the Tory right for being too timid and challenged by economists who questioned whether the costs added up.

The Guardian reported that Williams placed the £100 bet on May 19 with odds of 5/1 — returning £500 to be paid after the election — three days before Sunak announced that the vote would take place on July 4.

The Conservatives said: “We are aware of contact between a Conservative candidate and the Gambling Commission. It is a personal matter for the individual in question.”

“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: “If someone uses confidential information in order to gain an unfair advantage when betting, this may constitute an offence of cheating under Section 42 of the Gambling Act, which is a criminal offence.”

Although many senior Conservatives were blindsided by Sunak’s decision to go for a July election, a number of close aides and advisers were aware of what the prime minister was considering weeks before he made the call.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow paymaster general, said allegations were “utterly extraordinary” and that they reflected a culture of sleaze within the party after a number of MPs were forced to step down during the last parliamentary session. “This is more evidence that the Tories have learned nothing,” he said.

According to FT research, more than a dozen Tory MPs quit or were disciplined by the party or parliamentary colleagues over claims of bad behaviour prior to parliament’s dissolution in May.

Scott Benton, former MP for Blackpool South, stepped down after the House of Commons’ standards committee concluded he had given the impression he was “corrupt and for sale” by offering to conduct paid lobbying.


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