UK PM Rishi Sunak deals with another Conservative Party member's betting scandal | World News - Hindustan Times

UK PM Rishi Sunak deals with another Conservative Party member's betting scandal

Jun 23, 2024 04:00 PM IST

UK PM Rishi Sunak is dealing with a second member of his party being investigated for allegations of election day betting

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is on Sunday dealing with yet another senior party official being involved in placing bets on the date of the general election before July 4 was confirmed, as the scandal engulfing his top aides continues to be investigated by the country's gambling watchdog.

UK PM Rishi Sunak deals with another Conservative Party member's betting scandal(Reuters)
UK PM Rishi Sunak deals with another Conservative Party member's betting scandal(Reuters)

The British Indian leader, who has said he was “incredibly angry” on learning about the allegations that emerged earlier this month, now finds the Conservative Party’s chief data officer also being investigated by the Gambling Commission for allegedly betting on the timing of the election before the date had been announced.

Read more: UK PM Sunak's party campaign chief steps down after insider gambling scandal

Following the revelations first reported in ‘The Sunday Times’, Nick Mason is said to have taken a leave of absence but denies wrongdoing.

It comes as a fresh blow for the Sunak-led Tories, already trailing far behind the Opposition Labour Party in all pre-election opinion polls, after his director of campaigns, Tony Lee, and his Tory MP candidate wife, Laura Saunders, were named earlier in the election date betting investigations.

It followed reports of Sunak’s close protection officer being arrested by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of misconduct over placing an election date bet and Sunak’s parliamentary aide, Tory MP candidate Craig Williams, also under investigation.

Read more: Rishi Sunak roasted for his ‘Buy British’ X post: ‘Starting Swadeshi movement’

While betting is legal in the UK, any bets placed with the advantage of insider information could fall within the purview of illegality.

"There are multiple investigations happening. It's right they're allowed to proceed. They're independent and necessarily confidential," Sunak told reporters earlier this week.

"There's also a criminal investigation, and these are potentially criminal matters. If anyone is found to have broken the rules, they should not only face the full consequences of the law, but I will make sure they are booted out of the Conservative Party," he said.

Since then, he and senior party leaders have refused to comment on ongoing investigations, with a senior Cabinet minister condemning the actions of his party colleagues.

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"It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us. That's the most potentially damaging thing," said Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, who is not seeking re-election next month.

The Gambling Commission has only admitted "investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election" and declined to provide any details on the “ongoing investigation”.

“We are not confirming or denying the identity of any individuals involved in this investigation," a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition parties have continued to pile pressure on the governing Conservatives over the spiralling betting scandal.

"Rishi Sunak promised integrity, professionalism and accountability, instead his weakness means he has overseen the same sleaze and scandal that have come to epitomise the last 14 years of Tory government. Rishi Sunak must take immediate action and suspend all those implicated in the Tory betting scandal," said a Labour Party spokesperson.

The Liberal Democrats have also called on Sunak to personally intervene after the allegations.

"This is now an all-out scandal at the heart of Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party. Sunak must personally intervene to order a Cabinet Office inquiry and suspend all those under investigation by the Gambling Commission,” said Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper.

When Sunak stepped out onto the steps of 10 Downing Street amid pouring rain on May 22 to announce July 4 as the date of the general election, he took the country by surprise with a summer election as opposed to the widely speculated September-October timeline.

The date was, therefore, considered a very closely guarded secret, with only a handful of close party aides expected to have been in the know.

Under Section 42 of the UK's Gambling Act 2005, it is an offence to cheat at gambling or to do anything that allows someone else to cheat.

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