Tory official takes leave of absence amid gambling row

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

A senior Conservative Party official has taken a leave of absence amid the gambling row over the election.

Nick Mason, the chief data officer, was reported to have been told that he was part of the inquiry into betting on the date of the election before it was public knowledge.

The Conservative Party confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph that he had taken a leave of absence.

It comes in the wake of Tony Lee, the party’s director of campaigns, and his wife, Laura Saunders, a candidate in Bristol North West, being investigated by the Gambling Commission. Ms Saunders says she is fully cooperating with the commission.

Tony Lee
Tony Lee is under investigation

Craig Williams, Rishi Sunak’s private secretary, was also placed under investigation over a £100 “flutter”, which he apologised for and described as a “huge error of judgment.”

Meanwhile, one of Mr Sunak’s close protection officers has also been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public following a similar allegation and is suspended as an internal investigation is carried out by Scotland Yard.

Michael Gove, the outgoing Housing Secretary, compared the betting scandal to partygate during Boris Johnson’s premiership. Mr Gove told The Sunday Times: “It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us... That’s the most potentially damaging thing.

“The perception that we operate outside the rules that we set for others

“That was damaging at the time of partygate and is damaging here.

“If you’re in a privileged position [close] to the prime minister at the heart of a political operation and you use inside information to make additional money for yourself, that’s just not acceptable. So if these allegations are true, it’s very difficult to defend.”

Craig Williams
Craig Williams allegedly 'put a flutter' on the date of the election

A spokesman for Mr Mason denied any wrongdoing and said it was inappropriate to comment during the inquiry. A Tory Party spokesman said: “As instructed by the Gambling Commission, we are not permitted to discuss any matters related to any investigation with the subject or any other persons.”

Mr Sunak must personally intervene in the “all-out scandal”, the Lib Dems have said. Daisy Cooper, the Lib Dem deputy leader, said: “Sunak must personally intervene to order a Cabinet Office inquiry and suspend all those under investigation.”