Tory data chief takes leave of absence

Tory data chief takes leave of absence

The Conservative Party’s chief data officer has taken a leave of absence amid claims he placed bets on the timing of the General Election.

The PA news agency understands that Nick Mason has taken a leave of absence after becoming the latest Tory to be investigated by the Gambling Commission for allegedly betting on the timing of the election before the date had been announced.

The latest allegations were published by The Sunday Times, which claimed dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.

The revelations are a fresh blow to Rishi Sunak’s hopes of getting the Tory election campaign on track after three other Conservative figures were caught up in the scandal.

Tony Lee, the party’s director of campaigns, and his wife Laura Saunders, are under investigation by the Commission.

Ms Saunders, a Conservative candidate in the Bristol North West constituency, has said she will co-operate fully with the investigation.

Craig Williams, who was the Prime Minister’s parliamentary private secretary and is the Conservative candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, has admitted to putting “a flutter” on the date of the election and is also facing a probe.

Michael Gove, the Housing Secretary, has condemned the latest reports, and likened the controversy to Partygate.

“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” he told the Sunday Times, adding: “That’s the most potentially damaging thing.”

Mr Gove went on to suggest it was “just not acceptable” for those in a “privileged position” close to the Prime Minister to use what he described as “inside information to make additional money for yourself”.

He added: “You are, in effect, securing an advantage against other people who are betting entirely fairly and without that knowledge. So if these allegations are true, it’s very difficult to defend.”

A Labour spokesperson described the latest allegations as “utterly extraordinary” and called for Mr Sunak to suspend those implicated in the betting scandal.

The Liberal Democrats meanwhile called on Mr Sunak to personally intervene, with a Cabinet Office inquiry into the reports.

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This is now an all-out scandal at the heart of Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party.

“Sunak must personally intervene to order a Cabinet Office inquiry and suspend all those under investigation by the Gambling Commission.

“People are sick and tired of this sleaze. Day by day, hour by hour, the Conservative Government mire themselves in more of it.”

A Conservative spokesman said: “As instructed by the Gambling Commission, we are not permitted to discuss any matters related to any investigation with the subject or any other persons.”

The revelations come as the opinion polls continue to suggest poor public support for the Conservative party.

In the latest Savanta poll published for the Sunday Telegraph, Labour are on 42% of the vote, and the Conservatives are on 19%, their lowest ever vote share in a test of public opinion by the company.

Nigel Farage’s Reform UK meanwhile are on 16% of the vote, in a poll of 2,103 UK adults conducted between June 19 and 21.

The Reform leader faced criticism from both Mr Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer for his remarks in a BBC Panorama interview that the West “provoked” Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

He refused to apologise for the comments, writing in the Sunday Telegraph that he was “not and never have been an apologist or supporter of Putin”.

Mr Farage added: “Nobody can fairly accuse me of being an appeaser. I have never sought to justify Putin’s invasion in any way and I’m not now.”

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