Those who break gambling rules should be ‘kicked out’ of Tories, minister insists

Those who break gambling rules should be ‘kicked out’ of Tories, minister insists

Any Tory figures found to have broken gambling rules should be “kicked out” of the party, a Cabinet minister said as he argued against suspensions while the investigation is ongoing.

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies claimed it is “quite difficult to suspend somebody in the middle of an election campaign anyway” as he said the process should be allowed to take its course.

Mr Davies also said he has “absolutely no idea” if any more names are expected to emerge in connection with the Gambling Commission probe, adding: “I haven’t made any bets on anything for many years.”

His remarks follow Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisting he was “incredibly angry to learn” of the allegations that a string of people with links to the Conservative Party or No 10 bet on the timing of the July 4 contest before he announced it.

He added anyone found to have broken the rules should “face the full force of the law”.

Conservative Bristol North West candidate Laura Saunders said she “will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission” probe, while her husband, the Tories’ director of campaigning, Tony Lee, took a leave of absence amid reports the couple were being investigated by the gambling regulator.

It came after the arrest of one of the Prime Minister’s police protection officers and the previous revelation of a Gambling Commission investigation into his parliamentary aide, Craig Williams.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called on the Tories to suspend both Ms Saunders and Mr Williams, who is standing in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr.

Mr Davies told Sky News: “I just want to put on record that I certainly haven’t bet myself, I haven’t made any bets on anything for many years, I didn’t know the election was coming until probably the morning, I had an inclination, I wasn’t absolutely certain even then, and I’ve no idea who – if anyone – has placed any bets and what further investigation is going on.

“What I will say, I will repeat the Prime Minister’s words – it’s totally unacceptable if people have broken the rules in any way, there is an investigation going on by the Gambling Commission and I welcome that, and anyone who is found to have broken the rules will be kicked out of the Conservative Party.”

Mr Davies also told Times Radio: “I think that if people deny the allegations that they had insider knowledge, then they shouldn’t be suspended until afterwards.

“I mean, it’s quite difficult to suspend somebody in the middle of an election campaign anyway. I think there is a principle here about allowing due justice, a due process, sorry, to take its course.”

Concerns over political insiders profiting from the election date could overshadow Mr Sunak’s campaigning on Friday, when he joins the Welsh Conservative manifesto launch in Kinmel Bay.

PA opinion poll graphic showing Labour on 41%, the Conservatives on 20%, Reform on 17%, the Liberal Democrats on 11% and the Greens on 6% on June 21
(PA Graphics)

Betfair data appears to show a flurry of bets on a July poll placed on May 21, the day before Mr Sunak called the election, including some in the hundreds of pounds at odds that would have delivered profits in the thousands.

Elsewhere, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner suggested her party “takes some responsibility” for the “Tory chaos” after the 2019 election because of its failure to defeat Boris Johnson.

Pressed on why Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer previously backed his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, before distancing himself, Ms Rayner told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Keir is very clear that we were fighting for a Labour government, as was I at the time, and I think we all saw what happened after 2019 and what happened when Boris Johnson became prime minister – the parties, the unlawful behaviour, the sleaze, the scandal, the chaos as Liz Truss crashed our economy.

“We all feel a lot of guilt over the fact that we didn’t put a programme forward that the electorate would vote for and I think that’s why Keir feels uncomfortable.

“We’ve changed the Labour Party since then because we need a Labour Party that’s going to serve the British people, because we’ve seen what happens when we had the Tory chaos and we take some responsibility for that because we lost the election.”