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Senior Tory splits from PM and Home Secretary as he calls for those involved in betting scandal to be suspended

23 June 2024, 10:44 | Updated: 23 June 2024, 14:43

Home Secretary quizzed on Tory election 'gamblegate'

Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The former Justice Secretary and Conservative candidate Robert Buckland has split from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary by calling for those involved in the election betting scandal to be suspended.

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Speaking to LBC this morning, the Home Secretary admitted that the ongoing betting scandal is “frustrating” but has denied calls for Rishi Sunak to suspend those being investigated.

A string of people with links to either the Conservative Party or No10 are alleged to have placed bets on the timing of the July 4 election before Mr Sunak announced it.

This includes Nick Mason, chief data officer for the Conservative party, who is being investigated for bets placed on the date of the election, according to the Sunday Times.

LBC understands that Mason has taken a leave of absence from his role while the matter is investigated by the Gambling Commission. He denies any wrongdoing.

“It’s of course frustrating when you have conversations about inappropriate action,” James Cleverly told LBC’s Sunday with Lewis Goodall.

But he did not agree with calls for those being investigated to be suspended, saying that it is "right" to wait for the outcome of the investigation.

However, senior Tory and former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told LBC he thinks those being investigated should be suspended.

"The status of the various people is different," he told LBC.

"You've got employees and I'm sure there's a mechanism which could allow their suspension, you've got candidates on the ballot paper-so it may be a matter for the whip to look at it once they've been elected and whether they take the Conservative whip, that might be a way to enforce discipline once elected.

"There is an ongoing investigation, that needs to be complete. But I think in the interim, with the police officer who has been suspended, I think consistency should apply here."

It is understood 'many more' beyond those already named are being investigated by the Gambling Commission, Sky reports.

Sir Robert Buckland thinks those involved in 'gamblegate' should be sacked

Conservative candidate Laura Saunders, who is one of the people being investigated, said she "will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission".

She is the wife of Tony Lee, the Conservative Director of Campaigns, who has taken "a leave of absence" amid investigations into the betting scandal.

Read more: Tory candidate being investigated over alleged election date bet is 'married to Conservative Director of Campaigns'

Read more: Gove says election bets are ‘betrayal of Prime Minister’s trust’ as second Tory candidate investigated by 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.

Williams has apologised for having a “flutter” on the election.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast earlier this week, Housing Secretary Michael Gove said that the investigations were ‘beyond embarrassing’ for the Conservative party.

Meanwhile, he told the Sunday Times that the scandal is as damaging to the Tories as Partygate.

Minister for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Michael Gove during a housing visit in West London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Thursday June 20, 2024.
Minister for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Michael Gove during a housing visit in West London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Thursday June 20, 2024. Picture: Alamy

Asked about how the inquiries reflected on the parties, Mr Gove told Nick Ferrari: “It’s beyond embarrassing, it’s wrong - it’s also the principle here.

“It’s not just a betrayal of trust in the Prime Minister, which is very bad, it also means that other punters are losing out because of insider information and that means the system isn’t operating fairly.”

He added: “It’s beyond bad to use information like that to secure an advantage.”

A Conservative spokesman said of the inquiry: “We have been contacted by the Gambling Commission about a small number of individuals.

“As the Gambling Commission is an independent body, it wouldn’t be proper to comment further, until any process is concluded.

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