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Thu, 18 July 2024

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By Ben Guerin
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Tory Head Of Campaigning Takes Leave Of Absence

Rishi Sunak campaigns on a farm near Barnstaple, England (Leon Neal, Pool Photo via AP)

3 min read

The head of campaigning for the Conservative Party has taken a leave of absence, with two weeks still to go until polling day.

It comes after news broke that a Conservative candidate – later revealed to be the campaigning director's wife – was being looked into by the Gambling Commission over an alleged bet relating to the timing of the General Election.

Tony Lee took the leave of absence yesterday. 

“The director of campaigning took a leave of absence from CCHQ yesterday,” a Conservative spokesperson said today. 

Yesterday evening, the BBC had reported that Laura Saunders, the party’s candidate in the Bristol North West constituency, is facing an investigation by the Gambling Commission. It was reported on Thursday morning that Lee and Saunders are married. 

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “We have been contacted by the Gambling Commission about a small number of individuals.

“As the Gambling Commission is an independent body, it wouldn’t be proper to comment further, until any process is concluded.”

Keir Starmer has now called for suspensions, and said that if it was one of his candidates, they would "be gone". 

Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail today, the Labour leader said: "This candidate should be suspended, and it's very telling that Rishi Sunak has not already done that. 

"If it was one of my candidates, they'd be gone and their feet would have not touched the floor."

"Politics needs to be about service, about public service," he added. 

Meanwhile, Labour's campaign coordinator, Pat McFadden, has written to the Prime Minister today "regarding the scandal that is unfolding" around the election. 

He has asked Rishi Sunak to "gain a sense of urgency and decency about this matter and do what is necessary both to establish how wide this scandal goes, and take immediate action against all those implicated".

"It will speak volumes if you choose to stay silent and do nothing instead," McFadden added. 

Earlier this month, Conservative candidate Craig Williams, who was an aide to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said that the Gambling Commission were making “inquiries” after he “put a flutter” on the General Election. 

In a statement posted on X on 12 June, Williams, who is standing in Montgomeryshire and Glyyndwr said: “I've been contacted by a journalist about Gambling Commission inquiries into one of my accounts and thought it best to be totally transparent.

"I put a flutter on the general election some weeks ago. This has resulted in some routine inquiries and I confirm I will fully cooperate with these.

"I don't want to be a distraction from the campaign, I should have thought through how it looked."

 

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