Second Tory candidate facing betting probe is married to party’s head of campaigns

A second Conservative candidate facing an investigation over allegedly betting on the timing of the general election is married to the party’s director of campaigns.

Laura Saunders, the Tory candidate for Bristol North West, is being looked into by the Gambling Commission.

She has worked for the party since 2015 and is married to the Conservative Party’s director of campaigns, Tony Lee.

It is not known how much money was placed or when the bet was placed.

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Rishi Sunak’s close parliamentary aide Craig Williams placed a bet on a July election date three days before the prime minister announced it.

And the prime minister’s close protection officer has been arrested and suspended over alleged bets about the timing of the election.

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Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, who is stepping down after 20 years as an MP, told Sky News’ Breakfast with Kay Burley: “It’s deeply disappointing and upsetting.

“But I have to say it’s the exception rather than the rule.

“In all the time that I’ve been a minister, I’ve been very lucky, the people with whom I’ve worked, including dedicated police protection officers, are people who are prepared to risk an enormous amount to safeguard others.”

Craig Williams admitted to betting on the election date. Pic: PA
Craig Williams admitted to betting on the election date. Pic: PA

A Conservative spokesman told Sky News: “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.”

A Gambling Commission spokesman told Sky News: “The Gambling Commission regulates gambling in the interests of consumers and the wider public.

“Currently, the commission is investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election. This is an ongoing investigation, and the commission cannot provide any further details at this time.”

The officer who has been arrested is a member of the Met’s Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP) Command, which provides personal close protection to ministerial VIPs and members of the Royal Family.

Sky News understands several bets were placed by the officer, with at least one of them being a three-figure sum.

The Met Police said the matter was immediately referred on 14 June to officers in the force’s directorate of professional standards, who opened an investigation. The officer was also removed from operational duties.

In a statement, the Met said: “The officer was subsequently arrested on Monday 17 June on suspicion of misconduct in public office. He was taken into custody and bailed pending further enquiries.”

Mr Sunak said he was “disappointed” about Mr Williams after it emerged last week that he had bet on a July election.

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Mr Williams, who was the PM’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS), is facing an investigation after he “put a flutter on the general election” just days before the 4 July date was announced.

In a statement, he said his “flutter” on the election had prompted some “routine inquiries” and that he would “fully co-operate with these”.

“I don’t want it to be a distraction from the campaign. I should have thought through how it looks,” he added.

Sky News has contacted Ms Saunders for a comment, but she has not replied.

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