Names of betting scandal Tories ‘leaked by Met Police’

Nick Mason, the Tory party's chief data officer, Craig Williams, an aide to the PM, and Laura Saunders, a Tory candidate have all been swept up in the betting investigation
Nick Mason, the Tory party's chief data officer, Craig Williams, an aide to the PM, and Laura Saunders, a Tory candidate have all been swept up in the betting investigation

Scotland Yard has been accused of leaking the identities of Tories implicated in the general election betting scandal.

The Telegraph has also been told that a further five police officers are currently under investigation by the Gambling Commission, the industry watchdog, for placing bets on the date of the general election.

A source close to the Cabinet Office said it was suspected that the identities of Conservative candidates and officials had been leaked from within the Metropolitan Police, Britain’s biggest force.

While the identities of Tories accused of placing bets have been made public, the extent of the alleged involvement of police officers in placing bets had not until now.

One of Rishi Sunak’s close protection officers has already been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office over alleged bets placed on the timing of the election, but police are braced for further arrests.

The claims threaten to drag the Met into the political controversy that has engulfed Mr Sunak’s election campaign.

The source said Scotland Yard was officially informed of the date of the election prior to the Prime Minister’s public announcement for logistical purposes, and to ensure security was already in place at the start of the campaign.

It is also claimed that the Gambling Commission passed on names of suspects to the Metropolitan Police prior to their identities being made public in leaks to newspapers and the BBC, with police informed when an inquiry was launched by the commission.

The source close to the Cabinet Office said the Gambling Commission had been ruled out as the source of leaks.

Names of senior Tories implicated in the scandal, including Craig Williams, one of the PM’s closest aides, who has apologised for a “huge error of judgment”, and Tony Lee, the Conservative Party’s director of campaigning who has taken a leave of absence in the middle of the election, were shared with the media.

Nick Mason, the party’s chief data officer, has also stepped aside temporarily.

Tony Lee, the Conservative Party's director of campaigning has taken a leave of absence over the investigation. His wife, Tory candidate Laura Saunders Laura Saunders is also allegedly involved
Tony Lee, the Conservative Party's director of campaigning has taken a leave of absence over the investigation. He is married to Ms Saunders

The source told The Telegraph: “We know that the Met was made aware of the election date in advance of it being called by Rishi. We are also pretty sure these leaks are not coming from the Gambling Commission.

“But the commission has passed on names to the police of people suspected of betting irregularities and we believe that the identities are going into the public domain after that has happened.”

The source added: “The commission is telling the Met and then almost instantly these names are finding their way to journalists. The suspicion very much is it’s the Met [that’s leaking].”

If it emerges that police had leaked names of suspects, the implications could be disastrous. The force may be accused of interfering with the outcome of the election itself.

The Gambling Commission, which has no power to arrest suspects, acknowledges that it works closely with police forces after it has gathered evidence.

It also declined to say whether the names that have appeared in the public domain had already been passed to the Me for help with its inquiries.

A spokesman for the Gambling Commission said: “We cannot comment in this case when information was passed over to the police.”

In a statement, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The Met is not currently carrying out any other criminal investigations relating to alleged betting offences linked to the election. We continue to liaise with the Gambling Commission and are assessing information that they have provided.”

On Monday, Mr Sunak, who has ordered an internal inquiry to run separately to the Gambling Commission investigation, said he was “incredibly angry when I learned about the allegations, as everybody would be when they would hear about something like that”.

He said he was not aware of any other Tory candidates being investigated but stressed that any internal inquiries by the Conservative Party must not “compromise the integrity of a police and other investigations”.

‘Self-inflicted distraction’

He also appeared to clear the commission of leaking suspects’ names, adding: “[The Gambling Commission] don’t talk about the individuals that they are investigating… What I can tell you is I am not aware of any other candidate that they are looking at.”

Mr Sunak has resisted withdrawing the whip from election candidates allegedly involved in placing bets, including Mr Williams and Laura Saunders, the Tory candidate for Bristol North West, who is married to Mr Lee.

On Monday, Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative candidate for Bournemouth East and a former minister, said the scandal was a “deeply unhelpful, self-inflicted distraction” and suggested Mr Sunak should have suspended those being investigated.

Sir Keir Starmer, the the Labour leader, said Mr Sunak’s parallel investigation showed a “total failure of leadership”, adding: “He’s announced an investigation, an investigation designed for one purpose, which is to knock this in the long grass to the other side of the election.

“The desperation over this betting story that’s going around – it goes to the heart of what the Tories have become when their first instinct in relation to a general election is not how to serve the country, how do I get the message out, it’s how quickly can I get to the bookies and make some money.”

Nigel Farage, the Reform UK leader, weighed into the row, accusing the Conservatives of seeming to “resemble something of an organised betting ring”. Mr Farage predicted that the allegations “will get worse”.

A Met spokesman said: “The allegations that the Met has leaked information are simply untrue.”