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Sunak speaks out on betting scandal as UK election campaign heats up

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a Conservative general election campaign event, in Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a Conservative general election campaign event, in Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday Copyright Phil Noble/AP
Copyright Phil Noble/AP
By Saskia O'Donoghue with AP
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The British Prime Minister confirmed that he was not being investigated over the controversial allegations which has taken Westminster by storm.

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The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he is not being investigated by the Gambling Commission as it continues its probe into bets placed on the date of the general election.

Sunak also said his party, the Conservatives, are set to conduct their own internal investigation into the allegations. They have dogged the party’s campaign for reelection, some ten days ahead of the general election.

Speaking to the press in Scotland, Sunak insisted his party "will act" if the Conservatives' own inquiry into the alleged betting scandal finds any wrongdoing.

"The Gambling Commission is independent of [the] government - it's independent of me," Sunak explained.

The comments come after the chief data officer of the Conservatives announced he was taking a leave of absence.

The move came following growing allegations that the governing party's members used inside information to bet on the date of the UK’s upcoming 4 July national election before it was announced.

How did the political betting scandal come about?

The Sunday Times and other sources have been reporting that Nick Mason, chief data officer, is the fourth Conservative official to be investigated by the UK's Gambling Commission for allegedly betting on the timing of the election.

The newspaper alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.

The reports came after revelations in recent days that two Conservative election candidates, Laura Saunders and Craig Williams, are under investigation by the gambling watchdog.

Saunders' husband Tony Lee, the Conservative director of campaigning, has also taken a leave of absence following the allegations. He was also investigated over the alleged betting.

Police confirmed that one of Rishi Sunak's police bodyguards was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office. The arrest came after the gambling regulator confirmed it was investigating “the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election.”

The growing scandal, fewer than two weeks ahead of the general election, has dealt a fresh blow to Sunak's Conservative Party, which is widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.

Sunak - pictured here on Friday - has seen his reelection campaign dogged by controversies
Sunak - pictured here on Friday - has seen his reelection campaign dogged by controversiesLeon Neal/Getty Images via AP

How have Sunak and Conservative leaders reacted to the incident?

When the news broke, Sunak said that he was “incredibly angry” to learn of the allegations - and said that anyone found to have broken the law should be expelled from his party.

On 22 May, he surprised much of the country by announcing that parliamentary elections would be held on 4 July.

That date had been a closely guarded secret and many were taken by surprise because a vote had been expected in the autumn.

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Saunders, a candidate standing in Bristol, southwest England, has said she will cooperate fully with the investigation.

Williams was Sunak's parliamentary private secretary as well as a member of Parliament running for reelection on 4 July. He has acknowledged that he was being investigated by the Gambling Commission for placing a £100 (€118) bet on a July election before the date had been announced.

Senior Conservative minister Michael Gove condemned the alleged betting and likened it to “Partygate” - the colloquial name for the ethics scandal that contributed to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ouster in 2022.

That controversy saw public trust in the Conservatives plummet after revelations that politicians and officials held lockdown-flouting parties and gatherings in government buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

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“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” Gove told the Sunday Times, “that’s the most potentially damaging thing.”

Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said “People are sick and tired of this sleaze” - and that Sunak must intervene and order an official inquiry.

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