UK general election betting scandal now engulfs Opposition Labour Party

Two Tory party officials and an officer from Sunak's close protection Metropolitan Police team are also being investigated over placing bets.
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party.(Photo | AP)

LONDON: The escalating scandal of candidates placing general election-related bets has widened from the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak-led Conservative Party to engulf the Opposition Labour Party after its leader, Keir Starmer, suspended one of his candidates for betting against himself ahead of the July 4 polls.

Kevin Craig is running to become Labour's member of Parliament for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich in eastern England, considered a safe Conservative seat. It was previously held by Dan Poulter, who defected from the Tories to Labour ahead of the election before exiting politics.

On Tuesday, Craig took to social media to confirm his huge mistake of betting in favour of the Tories holding on to their stronghold.

"A few weeks ago when I thought I would never win this seat I put a bet on the Tories to win here to give any winnings to local charities,” said the now-suspended Labour candidate.

"While I did not place this bet with any prior knowledge of the outcome, this was a huge mistake, for which I apologise unreservedly," he said.

As in the case of any suspended Tory MPs, the party symbol will appear beside his name in the ballot papers at this late stage in the campaign but he would be considered an Independent MP if elected. Meanwhile, he has said he will "comply fully" with a Gambling Commission's investigation into this bet and will take the consequences of this stupid error of judgement on the chin.

For the Labour Party, having pressured Sunak in the past few days to suspend his betting party colleagues, it was seen as somewhat of an unavoidable move.

"With Keir Starmer as leader, the Labour Party upholds the highest standards for our parliamentary candidates, as the public rightly expects from any party hoping to serve, which is why we have acted immediately in this case," said a Labour Party spokesperson.

Two Tory party officials and an officer from Sunak's close protection Metropolitan Police team are also being investigated by the Gambling Commission over the placing of bets on the timing of the election.

This week, Welsh Conservative politician Russell George was also revealed to be under investigation. According to unconfirmed reports, around 15 Tory candidates may be under the scanner of the country's independent gambling watchdog.

It comes as Sunak gave into pressure this week and suspended two of his candidates, Craig Williams or Laura Saunders, being investigated for placing a bet on the date of the election which had come as a surprise to most of the country when on May 22 the British Indian leader had set July 4 as polling day.

At the time, only a very close group of his Downing Street and party aides are believed to have known about the summer polls as opposed to the originally speculated autumn election.

Betting is legal in the UK but placing bets with the advantage of insider information constitutes cheating and 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. It could come with a jail term attached if it leads to a prosecution.

The Gambling Commission has only admitted "investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election" and has declined to provide any details on the ongoing investigation. However, it has continued to dominate the headlines with just a week to go before the polls.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party.
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