Rishi Sunak says Craig Williams bet on General Election 'very disappointing'

  • People in the constituency of Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr react to Craig Williams placing a General Election bet days before it was called.

Rishi Sunak said it was “very disappointing” that one of his closest parliamentary aides had placed a bet on the date of the General Election just days before the Prime Minister called it.

Craig Williams, who served as Mr Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary and is the Conservative candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, has apologised but refused to say whether he placed the bet on the basis of insider information.

The Prime Minister also declined to say whether Mr Williams knew when polling day would be when he put money on it, saying it would be inappropriate to comment while the Gambling Commission investigates the matter.

Mr Williams, who was the Tory MP for Montgomery until the election was called, is alleged to have placed a £100 bet on a July polling day some three days before Mr Sunak named the date as July 4, at a Ladbrokes in his constituency.

He said on Thursday: “I clearly made a huge error of judgment, that’s for sure, and I apologise.”

Asked about the case while attending the G7 summit in Puglia, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: “It’s very disappointing news and you will have seen Craig Williams say that it was a huge error of judgment. Now, there’s an independent inquiry that is ongoing, which is necessarily confidential, as well as independent. And you’ll appreciate that, given that, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment while that’s ongoing.”

Pressed on what Mr Williams knew at the time of the bet, Mr Sunak repeated that “it wouldn’t be right for me to comment” while the probe is being carried out.

Mr Williams said on Wednesday that he was facing a Gambling Commission investigation, writing on social media that he would “fully co-operate” with “some routine inquiries”.

Asked repeatedly whether he had had insider information, Mr Williams told the BBC on Thursday: “I will not be expanding on that statement because it’s an independent process. The Gambling Commission are looking at it now.”

As a parliamentary aide, Mr Williams acted as a go-between for the Prime Minister and his MPs, and is understood to be a trusted member of Mr Sunak’s team.

The Guardian reported that the bet would have led to a payout of £500.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “We are aware of contact between a Conservative candidate and the Gambling Commission. It is a personal matter for the individual in question.

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

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron condemned Mr Williams’s move as “very foolish”. The Cabinet minister told BBC Breakfast that Mr Williams is already standing as a Conservative candidate and “I don’t think we can change that”, adding Mr Williams “will have to face the consequences” of the Gambling Commission probe.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Paymaster General described the allegations as "utterly extraordinary".

"Rishi Sunak has sat on this information for more than a week but has lacked any backbone to take action. Once again Rishi Sunak has been exposed as utterly weak," he said.

“After all the Tory financial scandals, this is more evidence that the Tories have learned nothing, haven’t changed, and if given five more years, the chaos will just continue.“

A Plaid Cymru statement said: "These reports speak volumes about Craig Williams’ judgement. No-one in a position of power who respects those who elected them would behave in this way. It’s time to get rid of the Tories from power with a vote for Plaid Cymru.”

The Liberal Democrats called for a Cabinet Office inquiry to look into what information Mr Williams had at the time of his bet.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey told broadcasters in Kent: “If someone knows the outcome of something, it seems to me morally questionable for them to put a bet on it if they know the result of that outcome.”

His deputy Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak must stop being so weak and call a Cabinet Office inquiry into this latest scandal.

“This inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of who knew what when, and uncover whether Craig Williams knew the election date at the time the bet was placed. The Conservative Party has been mired in endless sleaze and scandal for years, and the British people are sick to their back teeth with it.”

The candidates for Montgomeryshire and Glyndŵr are:

  • Jeremy Brignell-Thorp - Green Party

  • Oliver Lewis - Reform UK

  • Glyn Preston - Liberal Democrats

  • Elwyn Vaughan - Plaid Cymru

  • Craig Williams - Conservative

  • Steve Witherden - Labour