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Friday, June 21, 2024

The wrong sort of gamble

When Rishi Sunak opted for 4th July as the date of General Election most commentators thought it was a massive gamble. Little did we suspect that there was another sort of gambling going on at the same time, and in a way that has got us all asking: 'Are these people for real?'

Following on from Sunak's PPS, Craig Williams admitting that he placed a bet on the date of the general election, it transpires that another one of the Prime Minister's aides is caught up in a similar betting scandal.

The Guardian reports that a second Conservative candidate and the party’s campaigns director were being looked into by the Gambling Commission.

They say that the watchdog is examining bets allegedly placed by Laura Saunders, the Tory candidate in Bristol North West, and her husband, Tony Lee, who is now on leave of absence from his job at party headquarters:

It is not known when the alleged bets were placed or for how much money.

Labour called for the Tories to suspend Saunders from the party. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, 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 not have touched the floor.”

The Liberal Democrats called for a Cabinet Office inquiry. The party’s leader, Ed Davey, said: “I think it’s quite awful. It needs a heavy hand from the top.”

The cabinet minister Michael Gove said the situation “doesn’t look great” for the Conservatives but said the commission had to get on with its investigation.

A Tory spokesperson said the party had been contacted by the watchdog about “a small number of individuals” who had allegedly placed bets on a July election. A party insider said they were not aware of any more cases beyond those already in the public domain.

But this is not all. The paper adds that separately, one of Sunak’s close protection officers was arrested on Monday over alleged bets about the timing of the election, on suspicion of misconduct in public office.

And now the Mirror reports that a flurry of bets were placed on the likelihood of a July election with a major betting exchange the week before Rishi Sunak announced the date.

The paper says that thousands of pounds were wagered on a July date, starting the day after a “contingency planning” meeting to plan for a Summer election was held in Conservative HQ:

Data from Smarkets, the industry leader for political betting, shows thousands of pounds being wagered either for and against the election being in July between May 14th and May 18th. Mr Sunak announced on May 22nd that the election would take place on July 4th.

And the market probability of the election taking place in May - based on movements in the betting market - increased dramatically between May 17th and the evening of May 21st. A spokesperson for Smarkets confirmed that in April there had only been a “few small trades” on a July poll, putting the probability up to 12% - where it stayed mostly steady for two weeks.

Smarkets said the betting pool for political issues is not as “liquid” as it is for major sporting events - meaning relatively small things, like a Tweet or newspaper article - can prompt activity. But the first real indication a July election was on the cards was a May 18th tweet from the Financial Times’ Lucy Fisher - who reported there had been a “contingency planning” meeting at CCHQ the previous Monday - May 13th.

The flurry of bets began on May 14th.

This is going to run and run.


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