Candidate at centre of the General Election betting scandal breaks silence after being dropped by Tories

25 June 2024, 15:31 | Updated: 25 June 2024, 16:03

Craig Williams said he 'committed an error of judgement, not an offence'. He was dumped by Rishi Sunak along with Laura Saunders (inset)
Craig Williams said he 'committed an error of judgement, not an offence'. He was dumped by Rishi Sunak along with Laura Saunders (inset). Picture: Social Media/Alamy

By Asher McShane

A Tory candidate at the centre of the General Election betting scandal has broken his silence saying "I committed an error not an offence."

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Craig Williams, standing in Montgomeryshire and Glyndŵr, reiterated an apology on his social media today, saying: "I remain on the ballot paper on the 4th of July and I hope to secure your support.

"I committed an error of judgement, not an offence and I want to reiterate my apology directly to you.

"I’m fully cooperating with the routine inquiries of the Gambling Commission and I intend to clear my name."

Mr Williams's comments come after Rishi Sunak pulled support from him and another candidate, Laura Saunders.

The Prime Minister 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.

Welsh police said they had "not received any complaints in relation to this incident."

Dyfed-Powys Police issued a statement today: "We have established that no offences have been committed under the Representation of the People Act 1983 or the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

"Officers have liaised with the Gambling Commission who have confirmed they are dealing with this incident, and it does not require police involvement. The Gambling Commission has the powers to investigate and prosecute under the Gambling Act.”

In a sign of the wider scope of the Gambling Commission's investigation, the watchdog passed information to the Metropolitan Police alleging that five more officers had placed bets related to the timing of the poll.

The row has overshadowed the Tory election campaign in recent days as Mr Sunak battles to close his party's 21-point average poll deficit to Labour.

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.

Read more Five more Met police officers accused of placing bets on the timing of the election

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Conservative candidates caught in betting scandal have their support pulled

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."

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard said five more officers - in addition to a member of Mr Sunak's protection team who was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of misconduct in a public office - were alleged to have placed bets.

The officers are based on the Royalty and Specialist Command, the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and the Central West Basic Command Unit, but none of them work in a close protection role.

A Met Police spokesman said: "It is still the case that only one officer is under criminal investigation.

"We have, however, been passed information from the Gambling Commission alleging that five further officers have placed bets related to the timing of the election.

"The Gambling Commission continues to investigate these matters. The officers have not been arrested but the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards has been informed."

Decisions on whether the five officers will be subject to any restrictions will be taken in due course, the Met said.

As well as the parliamentary 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's husband Tony Lee, the party's director of campaigning, and chief data officer Nick Mason have stepped back from their duties.

The Prime Minister had faced demands from within the party to act on the candidates over concerns the issue was further damaging the Conservatives' electoral chances.

Following the decision to pull support, Tory peer and former Brexit secretary Lord Frost said: "We get there in the end.

"But why did it take so long to come to a decision that seemed so necessary right from the start?"

Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker called for those who placed bets on the election date to be suspended by the party on Monday night, saying "the Prime Minister would have to answer" for why he had not acted by then.

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."

Meanwhile the Met said it was "simply untrue" to say the force had leaked the names of people suspected of using inside information to bet on the July 4 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".

A Met spokesman said: "The allegations that the Met has leaked information are simply untrue."

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