Election campaign day 36: Met to probe ‘gamblegate’ claims

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police are to investigate political betting allegations where a “broader” criminal inquiry is required.

– The long arm of the law

And so it goes on. Now the police are to get involved in the “gamblegate” political betting saga which continues to overshadow the closing stages of the General Election campaign.

While the Gambling Commission remains in charge of the main investigation into alleged “cheating”, detectives from Scotland Yard will take over in cases where more serious criminality – such as misconduct in public office – is suspected.

Detective Superintendent Katherine Goodwin said: “We have agreed a joint approach with the Gambling Commission, who are the appropriate authority to investigate the majority of these allegations.

Rishi Sunak in a sleeveless hi-vis jacket seated in a train carriage talking to apprentices
Rishi Sunak, talking to apprentices at Alstom Transport in Derby, refused to comment on betting allegations (Joe Giddens/PA)

“There will, however, be a small number of cases where a broader criminal investigation by the police is required.”

The Met revealed that the number of its officers under investigation over bets placed on the date of election has risen to seven – including a member of Rishi Sunak’s close protection team who was arrested last week.

So far five Conservatives have also been implicated in the inquiry, with reports suggesting at least 15 parliamentary candidates and officials could be involved.

Campaigning in Derbyshire, the Prime Minister repeatedly refused to say whether he had told his former parliamentary aide, Craig Williams, the election date before he made his announcement.

“You’ll recognise that while there are ongoing independent investigations, it’s just not right for me to say anything more about that,” he said.

Earlier this week the Tories withdrew their support for Mr Williams in his bid to be returned as MP for the Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr seat after he admitted having a “flutter” on the election date.

– Quote of the day

– Baker’s bid

Self-styled Brexit hardman Steve Baker has become the latest senior Tory to signal that he is ready to step into the fray if Mr Sunak is ousted in the wake of a Conservative defeat on July 4.

The Northern Ireland minister hinted at a leadership run – provided he can gain re-election in Wycombe where he is defending a slender 4,214 majority.

Head and shoulders shot of Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker
Steve Baker has hinted at a leadership bid (Liam McBurney/PA)

“One thing at a time. I want to represent the people of Wycombe the best that I can, as I always have done. Then let’s see what happens,” he told the PA news agency.

He joins a potentially crowed field with Cabinet ministers Kemi Badenoch, James Cleverly and Victoria Atkins among those already jostling for position.

Mr Baker certainly has form. He was a leading light in the European Research Group which caused so many problems for Theresa May over Brexit and has proved a thorn in the side of the Tory leadership over Covid rules and net zero.

He later revealed that heading so many rebellions – “holding these tigers by the tail” – had taken its toll, resutling in a “major mental health crisis”.

– Picture of the day

Sir Keir Starmer, seated, with potter Keith Brymer Jones in a pottery factory
Sir Keir Starmer with potter Keith Brymer Jones during his visit to Duchess China (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

– Great British Pottery Show Down

After their sparky encounter in their final TV debate, Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have been engaged in slinging more mud. Or to be more precise, clay.

The Tory and Labour leaders both headed to the Potteries where they attempted to demonstrate their skills in ceramics for the cameras.

First up was Mr Sunak who received instruction in dipping a teapot in pottery glaze during a visit to Denby Pottery in Derbyshire.

Rishi Sunak preparing to dip a ceramic teapot into a vat of pottery glaze
Rishi Sunak dipping teapots during his visit to Denby Pottery Factory (Joe Giddens/PA)

The Prime Minister was given 8/10 for his effort by dipper Georgia Plinston, who commended him for the relatively even coating he achieved.

Sir Keir later visited a bone china factory and stamped the word “change” on to a mug made by celebrity potter Keith Brymer Jones.

The Great Pottery Throw Down expert judge made a mug as he chatted to the Labour leader about apprenticeships for craftspeople at the Duchess China factory just outside Stoke.

“I often describe my career as a series of mistakes with a few successes,” Brymer Jones said.

“I should join you there,” Sir Keir laughed.

– Mind your own business

Political betting may now be exercising the police as well as regulators but some punters seem blithely unconcerned.

When The Sun reported that Tory Sir Philip Davies has placed an £8,000 bet on himself to lose, he declared it was “nobody’s business” but his own.

Head and shoulders shot of Sir Philip Davies
Sir Philip Davies (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

“What’s it got to do with you whether I did or didn’t?” he told the paper. “I hope to win. I’m busting a gut to win. I expect to lose.”

Sir Philip, who previously co-hosted a show on GB News with his wife Esther McVey before she became a Government minister, is defending a majority of 6,242 in the West Yorkshire seat of Shipley.

While he refused to confirm or deny the bet this time round, he acknowledged that he had not been shy about wagering a few pounds in previous elections.

“In the 2005 election, I busted a gut to win. I expected to lose. I had a bet on myself to lose in the 2005 election, and my bet went down the pan,” he said.

– Don’t mention the PM

As the campaign enters its closing stages, the main parties have ramped up their spending on social media advertising as they scramble for every last vote.

Transparency campaigners Who Targets Me said the Conservatives shelled out £332,000 last week on advertising on platforms owned by Meta – including Facebook and Instagram – while Labour paid £350,000.

But while Labour’s ads largely feature their own plans for government, the Tories are much more focused on attacking their opponents.

According to Who Targets Me, 83% Conservative ads mentioned Labour – compared to just 1.1% which name-checked Mr Sunak and the 0.4% which highlighted Tory policies.

“If any number showed how theirs is a ‘don’t vote Labour’ campaign, rather than a ‘vote Tory’ campaign, it’s this. The tone has been relentlessly negative,” the campaigners said.

– Social media moment

Rishi Sunak has been blasted on X for a post which contains a poster with the words, “Don’t surrender your family’s future to Labour”, alongside an image of what appears to be an elderly man, a woman and a child with their hands up.

The Prime Minister also commented, “I will never stop fighting for this country”, above it.

Hundreds of people have reacted, with some asking Mr Sunak, “Are you serious sir?”, and others questioning how he could post such a “nasty” image.

Others brought up the Conservative leader’s decision to leave D-Day commemorative events early, adding: “Fighting for this country? Didn’t you abandon those who fought for our country in France for an interview?”

– What the polls are are saying

Two opinion polls have been published in the past 24 hours, both of which show Labour continuing to hold a large lead over the Conservatives, with Reform several points behind in third place.

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from February 27 to June 27, with the final point showing Labour on 41%, Conservatives 21%, Reform 15%, Lib Dems 11% and Green 6%. Source: PA graphic
(PA Graphics)

More In Common gives Labour a 17-percentage point lead over the Tories while Norstat puts Labour 16 points ahead.

An average of all polls with survey work completed during the seven days to June 27 puts Labour on 41%, 20 points ahead of the Conservatives on 21%, followed by Reform on 15%, the Lib Dems on 11% and the Greens on 6%.

– What’s happening tomorrow

Nigel Farage and Greens co-leader Adrian Ramsay appearing on BBC Question Time.