Shropshire Star

Election campaign day 30: Sunak fails to move on from betting scandal

The Prime Minister repeated his formulaic answers when pressed repeatedly on whether others could be implicated.

Last updated
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holding a glass bottle during a visit to a farm shop in Wales

Rishi Sunak’s campaigning was overshadowed by the scandal around betting allegations, further dampening any hopes of the Tories turning around their dismal poll ratings.

Here are the key moments from day 30 on the General Election campaign trail:

– Gamblegate goes on

The Prime Minister faced further questions on gambling by Conservative candidates, failing in his attempts to move on from the scandal during a campaign visit to Wales.

At the launch of the Tories’ Welsh manifesto, he sought to shift the focus to warnings about Labour winning power.

“Don’t fall into Labour’s trap, don’t sleepwalk to July 4,” Mr Sunak said.

But the questions he faced after his speech continued to revolve around the claims that people in his operation made wagers on the election date before he announced it.

Mr Sunak refused to say whether any more Conservative figures could be implicated, noting the Gambling Commission and the police are responsible for investigating the allegations.

He also reiterated his formulaic answer that he would not “compromise the integrity” of the probes when pressed repeatedly on why he was not immediately suspending the two Tory candidates – Craig Williams and Laura Saunders – alleged to have bet on the July 4 contest.

Rishi Sunak, wearing glasses, makes a speech in front of a blue background
Rishi Sunak sought to move on from the betting row at the Tories’ Welsh manifesto launch (Aaron Chown/PA)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Sunak of a “total lack of leadership” for failing to kick them out of the Conservative Party and to say whether more may be involved.

– No Corbynmania

Sir Keir declined to repeat his suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better prime minister than Boris Johnson.

Sir Keir Starmer looks closely as an employee works on a window in a factory during a visit to Window Supply Company in Bathgate, West Lothian
Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Window Supply Company in Bathgate, West Lothian (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Labour leader made the comment about his predecessor during Thursday night’s Question Time on the BBC, but on Friday evaded follow-up questions.

“The choice at the last election before the electorate was not a good choice,” he told broadcasters in Scotland, while stressing his mantra of having changed the Labour Party since the Corbyn era.

On a visit north of the border, where he is looking to cement Labour’s resurgence, Sir Keir rubbished the idea of entering negotiations on another independence referendum if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats at the election.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said it was “telling” that Sir Keir had “already adopted the same old Westminster arrogance when it comes to respecting Scottish democracy”.

The Labour leader also ruled out lifting the Section 35 order blocking the Scottish Government’s controversial gender reforms.

– Picture of the day

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey drawing a charcoal on pastel artwork at Harrogate College
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey drawing a charcoal on pastel artwork at Harrogate College (Danny Lawson/PA)

– Testing times

Sir Ed Davey also continued to face questions volleyed at him during the prior evening’s BBC grilling, namely on the abandoning of the Liberal Democrats’ pledge to scrap tuition fees in the coalition government.

On a visit to Harrogate College, where the party leader joined art students for a still-life drawing class, Sir Ed said: “I made it very clear that, yes, we were punished in 2015 but we’ve listened to people.”

He said he had learned “never make promises you can’t keep” and to “rebuild” his party based on addressing people’s biggest concerns.

– TUV/Reform muddle

The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party in Northern Ireland slammed the “damage” caused by post-Brexit trade barriers at the launch of its manifesto.

Reform UK deputy leader Ben Habib (left) and TUV leader Jim Allister during the TUV manifesto launch at Dunsilly Hotel in Co Antrim
Reform UK deputy leader Ben Habib (left) and TUV leader Jim Allister during the TUV manifesto launch at Dunsilly Hotel in Co Antrim (David Young/PA)

Leader Jim Allister was joined at the event by Reform UK deputy leader Ben Habib. Both were keen to downplay the recent move by Reform leader Nigel Farage to personally endorse two candidates for unionist rival party the DUP, despite his party having an official electoral alliance with the TUV.

Mr Farage, who was campaigning in Clacton on Friday, will be grilled by veteran presenter Nick Robinson in a Panorama interview in the evening.

– Donations dry up

The Tories raised less than £300,000 in the second week of the election, according to the latest figures from the Electoral Commission, amid their faltering campaign.

That was far below the £8.7 million the party raised in the first two weeks of the 2019 campaign.

In contrast, Labour raised £4.4 million in week two thanks in part to a £2.5 million donation from former supermarket boss Lord David Sainsbury.

Reform UK raised £742,000, largely thanks to a £500,000 donation from a company controlled by party chairman Richard Tice.

– Quote of the day

– Social media moment

Labour and the Lib Dems took to TikTok to poke fun at Mr Sunak’s Question Time suggestion that 18-year-olds who refuse to do national service could have their driving licences or access to finance restricted.

Labour posted a clip of Cilla Black singing Surprise, Surprise on an image of Mr Sunak, with the caption: “POV Rishi Sunak coming to take your driving licence and bank account if you won’t go to war.”

The Lib Dems’ video shows Sesame Street’s Elmo driving a car and cursing as he is pursued by the police, with the caption: “POV: You dodged National Service and now Rishi wants your licence.”

– What is happening tomorrow?

Mr Sunak and Sir Keir are expected to campaign in London, while Sir Ed is talking sewage on visits to southern England.

Labour frontbenchers David Lammy and Steve Reed are also expected to hit the campaign trail.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.