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The House Live All
By Ben Guerin
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Betting Scandal Could Be “Final Nail In Coffin” For Tory Party, Say Gleeful Labour Sources

4 min read

Last night’s TV leaders special suggests the betting scandal could be the “final nail in the coffin” for the faltering Tory election campaign, according to gleeful Labour sources.

Two Tory candidates and the Conservative Party’s campaign director are under investigation by the Gambling Commission for allegedly placing bets on the July election date. One of the candidates under investigation, Craig Williams, is also still in post as Sunak’s PPS, raising questions from some as to why no action has been taken to remove him. 

One Tory MP seeking re-election is unequivocal. “We should suspend Williams”, he tells PoliticsHome

In the debate the PM admitted he was “incredibly angry” over the allegations but refused to say that he would suspend those named until the investigation is concluded. 

He added: “If anyone is found to have broken the rules I will make sure that they are booted out of the Conservative Party.”

Notably there were no Cabinet ministers out to support the PM last night; many were at the Hurlingham Club where donors were gathered. It was left up to David Davis to try and defend the Prime Minister’s position. He told PoliticsHome if the allegations were true “it’ll be a disgrace.” 

“Like the Prime Minister I'm angry about it, it makes you disappointed.”

When the PM arrived at the debate last night, the Question Time team thought he looked “terrified” – and given the grilling he received, it soon became clear why. 

A brutal first question put to the PM asked whether he had even a "small amount of embarrassment" over the state of the Conservative Party, which got more than a few laughs in the spin room. 

Jonathan Ashworth was sent out to bat for Labour after the debate, calling Rishi Sunak a "weak leader" for his inaction. 

“There are a series of questions. What other candidates knew, have any of his Cabinet ministers placed a bet? Have any of his junior ministers placed a bet? Have any of his aides placed a bet? Has Rishi Sunak even bothered to ask them or is he burying his head in the sand?” challenged Ashworth. 

One Labour HQ source said it was “pretty much” the final nail in the coffin for the Conservative Party after what has been a disastrous election campaign. 

Speaking to journalists, Wes Streeting accused the Prime Minister of being a “complete busted flush”. 

“The Conservative Party is mired in scandal, they have forgotten what public service really means and what it is.”

If the polls are to be believed, the Conservative Party are heading for a total wipeout on July 4th that could see them return to Parliament with fewer than 100 seats. 

Starmer clearly favoured the QT format over that of the first head to head on ITV. He seemed much more relaxed fielding questions from the audience instead of going toe-to-toe against his political opponents. 

He tried to emulate Tony Blair’s casual vibe, taking the opportunity to move around the studio far more than any of the other party leaders. This was aided by there being no QT platform to stand on, as they’ve had in the past, perhaps hoping to avoid a repeat of Ed Miliband’s fumble during the 2015 leaders special.

But the Labour leader was pressed hard on his time in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. After a series of attempts, Starmer admitted he thought that Corbyn would have been a “better prime minister” than Boris Johnson

It was somewhat surprising given Starmer has taken great effort in recent years to distance himself from the former Labour leader who is now out of the party and standing as an independent candidate. 

“Keir was ducking and weaving, every difficult question he changed the subject and this was one of them”, remarked David Davis. 

But perhaps the spiciest moment of the evening came at the end when an audience member asked the PM whether Britain would leave the ECHR.

Sunak declared that if it stood in the way of the Rwanda scheme he would put the “country’s national security first and I make absolutely no apology for that”.

Another Tory MP standing for re-election tells PoliticsHome it was good to see the PM show “a bit more passion” towards the end – but the cries of “shame” from the audience at the end suggested it did not go all that far.

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Read the most recent article written by Harriet Symonds and Tali Fraser - Jockeying Begins For Leadership Of Battered Tory Party

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