UK PM Sunak's aide apologises for 'error of judgment' over bet on election date

Britain’s general election 2019

LONDON (Reuters) - A British lawmaker and close aide to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologised on Thursday for a "huge error of judgment" after he placed a bet on when the country's election would happen, triggering an investigation by the gambling regulator.

The latest embarrassment for Sunak's Conservative Party campaign followed a Guardian report that Craig Williams, who is standing for a parliamentary seat in Wales, bet 100 pounds ($128) that Sunak would call an election for July, just days before he did. Williams stood to win 500 pounds, the report said.

Williams has served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister since October 2022 - a varied role which includes acting as a liaison between Sunak and the rest of the Conservative Party's elected lawmakers.

The July 4 date of the vote came as a surprise to most other lawmakers and voters, who had expected an autumn election.

Asked whether he had placed the bet based on inside information, Williams told the BBC on Thursday: "I clearly made a huge error of judgement, that's for sure, and I apologise."

Following the Guardian report on Wednesday, Williams said in a statement posted on X that Britain's betting regulator, the Gambling Commission, was making routine inquiries after he put "a flutter" on the general election date some weeks ago. He said he was cooperating with that inquiry.

The episode is the latest hiccup in the Conservative's stuttering campaign, after their manifesto launch on Tuesday failed to gain traction. Polls show the Conservatives around 20 percentage points behind the opposition Labour Party.

Last week Sunak issued a public apology after he was widely criticised, including by those in his own party, for leaving D-Day commemorations early to give an election interview.

Labour called the gambling allegations "utterly extraordinary". Foreign minister David Cameron told the BBC that Williams had made a "very foolish decision".

($1 = 0.7819 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by William James)