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Tories withdraw support from candidates over betting allegations

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Tories withdraw support from candidates over betting allegations

The Tories have withdrawn support from candidates Craig Williams and Laura Saunders after they were implicated in the General Election betting row.

Rishi Sunak acted after coming under mounting pressure within the party to take a tougher stance on the alleged use of inside information to bet on the timing of the July 4 poll.

Mr Williams, who was the Prime Minister’s parliamentary aide, and Ms Saunders who is standing in Bristol North West, will no longer have the support of the party.

Because nominations have closed, Mr Williams – who is standing in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr – and Ms Saunders will both still be on the ballot paper.

But a Conservative Party spokesman said: “As a result of ongoing internal inquiries, we have concluded that we can no longer support Craig Williams or Laura Saunders as parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election.

“We have checked with the Gambling Commission that this decision does not compromise the investigation that they are conducting, which is rightly independent and ongoing.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Why didn’t that happen a week ago?”

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “It is yet another example of Rishi Sunak’s staggeringly weak leadership, that it has taken him nearly two weeks to see what was obvious to everyone else.

“The Conservatives who sought to line their own pockets by betting on the election date are not fit to be candidates for Parliament.

“Rishi Sunak now needs to come clean with voters across the country and tell them exactly how many of his Conservatives are implicated and who they are.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This should have happened immediately when these scandalous revelations emerged, but instead Rishi Sunak has dithered and delayed.”

As well as the candidates, two senior Tory officials have taken a leave of absence at a crucial point in the election campaign, after being drawn into the Gambling Commission investigation.

Ms Saunders’ husband Tony Lee, the party’s director of campaigning, and chief data officer Nick Mason, have stepped back from their duties.

And a police officer who served in the Prime Minister’s protection team has been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office over alleged bets on the election date.

The Prime Minister has been under pressure to act amid Tory concerns the issue was further damaging their electoral chances.

Steve Baker became the first serving minister to call for those who placed bets on the election date to be suspended by the party, on Monday night.

The Northern Ireland minister told ITV’s Peston that Mr Sunak should take action: “I would call them up and ask them, ‘Did you do it?’ And if they did it, then they are suspended.

“But the Prime Minister would have to answer why he hasn’t done it, I haven’t got inside information on why the Prime Minister hasn’t done it.”

Meanwhile the Metropolitan Police said it was “simply untrue” to say that the force had leaked the names of people suspected of using inside information to bet on the July 4 election date.

A source close to the Cabinet Office told the Daily Telegraph the Gambling Commission is telling the Met “and then almost instantly these names are finding their way to journalists”.

“The suspicion very much is, it’s the Met,” the source said.

The newspaper reported that a further five police officers are currently under investigation by the gambling regulator.

A Met spokesman said: “The allegations that the Met has leaked information are simply untrue. We continue to liaise with the Gambling Commission and are assessing information they have provided.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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