PM refuses to say if other Tories placed election bets in speech overshadowed by scandal

ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks looks at the latest drama to overshadow Sunak's election campaign.

Rishi Sunak has refused to say if he's aware of any other Conservatives who placed bets on the date of the election, after allegations of a betting scandal among four individuals close to him.

Delivering a speech launch for the Conservative Welsh manifesto, Sunak avoided the question when asked if he can guarantee he is not aware of any other Conservatives who gambled on the election date.

Instead he insisted "there's not much more I can add", but said anyone who has broken gambling rules will be "booted out" of the party.

Sunak repeated comments he made on Thursday night that "these are really serious matters" - "I've made it crystal clear that the allegations have made me very angry", he said.

The alleged betting scandal has become the latest drama to engulf the Conservative election campaign, after it emerged that four people close to Sunak are being investigated for allegedly placing bets on the date of the election.

Sunak was asked during a bruising appearance on Thursday night’s BBC Question Time leaders’ special whether the betting allegations were “the absolute epitome of the lack of ethics” displayed by the Conservative Party in recent years.

“It’s a really serious matter. It’s right that they’re being investigated properly by the relevant law enforcement authorities, including … a criminal investigation by the police", he replied.

Conservative candidate Laura Saunders said she “will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission” probe, while her husband, the Tories’ director of campaigning, Tony Lee, took a leave of absence amid reports the couple were being investigated by the gambling 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.

Labour and the Lib Dems have called on the Tories to suspend both Ms Saunders and Mr Williams, who is standing in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr.

On Friday Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeated those calls, urging the PM to take "tough action", and saying "if they were my candidates, they'd be out the door by now.

"The instinct of these Tories when the general election is called is not, how do we make this work for the country, but how do I make some money?"

Starmer accused Sunak of a "total lack of leadership" and being part of a "politics of self-entitlement."

Betfair data appears to show a flurry of bets on a July poll placed on May 21, the day before Mr Sunak called the election, including some in the hundreds of pounds at odds that would have delivered profits in the thousands.

Despite the Conservatives’ dismal poll ratings failing to improve since Sunak made the move – with four major polls this week even predicting the worst Tory electoral result ever – the Prime Minister insisted he had chosen the “right moment” for the contest.

Speaking at the launch of the Conservative's Welsh manifesto on Friday, Sunak admitted to voters "I know you're frustrated with our party - frustrated with me".

The PM urged voters not to "let Labour waltz into office without scrutinising them."

"I know you want to send us a message, but this is not a by-election", he said.

"It will determine who governs our country for the next five years and potentially much longer. For if Labour get in, they'll change the rules so it's much harder to ever get them out."

Meanwhile, Starmer said on Thursday night that Jeremy Corbyn would have been a better prime minister than Boris Johnson.

The Labour leader is in Scotand to pledge that Labour’s industrial strategy would deliver 69,000 jobs in Scotland as he seeks to cement his party’s resurgence there.

Visiting a business alongside Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Starmer will vow to “turn the page on an era of economic turmoil under the Tories and the SNP”.

In his Question Time grilling, the Labour leader ducked a volley of questions over whether he truly believed his predecessor would make a “great” premier.

When host Fiona Bruce asked for a “yes or no” answer to whether he meant his one-time statement, there was laughter from the audience when he did not give one, instead saying that Mr Corbyn would have made a better prime minister than Mr Johnson.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey was challenged by a student over his party abandoning their pledge to scrap tuition fees in the coalition government.

He said: “I understand why your generation lost faith in us. It was a difficult government to be in.”

The Lib Dem leader was also asked whether he was “proud” of his conduct as postal affairs minister between 2010 and 2012.

Sir Keir Starmer defended his support of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 manifesto, despite recently comparing it to Rishi Sunak’s policy offering Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

He said he made “two big mistakes during that time”, including failing to meet Sir Alan Bates in 2010 – although he subsequently did agree to meet the campaigner – and not seeing through assurances given to him by the Post Office that Sir Alan’s assertions were not true.

The Lib Dem leader will call for urgent reform to end the “appalling situation” in NHS dentistry as he hits the campaign trail on Friday.

Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader, John Swinney, suggested he would prefer Sir Keir over Mr Sunak, telling the BBC programme: “The Conservative Government has been a total disaster and a calamity”.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, who complained about being excluded from the four-way leaders’ panel but will feature in a separate Question Time next week, is expected to campaign in Clacton on Friday before a high-profile Panorama interview.

At the manifesto launch in Kinmel Bay, David TC Davies defended the Tories record in Wales citing work on tax cuts, freeports and job creation:

“"Labour's lack of ambition for Wales is clear for all to see - Labour in Westminster and Wales ruling out the electrification of the North Wales main line. Only the Conservatives will deliver for North Wales. 

“It is only by voting Welsh Conservative can our clear plan, with bold action be put in place and deliver a secure future for Wales."

Responding to the Welsh Manifesto launch Labour called it a 'desperate fantasy wish-list' whilst Plaid Cymru claimed the Tories had 'failed' in their 14 years in power

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