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Gambling-gate rocks British politics

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that in April he placed a successful bet that the election date would fall between July and September…reports Asian Lite News

A Conservative cabinet minister has admitted placing three bets on the date of the general election in the weeks before Rishi Sunak’s surprise announcement.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that in April he placed a successful bet that the election date would fall between July and September – after losing two similar bets in March.

Jack who is standing down at the election after seven years in Parliament, says he has not breached any rules. He had originally told he had made £2,100 from one of the bets – but later claimed his comments were “a joke… I was pulling your leg”.

On Tuesday, Jack admitted he had placed a £20 bet at five to one – which would have netted him a return of £120. He said he had also “put two bets on in March of £5 each for an election to be held in May and June respectively”.

The prime minister made his surprise election announcement on 22 May. Jack said in a statement: “I had no knowledge of the date of the election until the day it was called. I placed no bets in May and am not under investigation by the Gambling Commission.”

A spokesperson for the Gambling Commission said: “We are not confirming or denying the identity of any individuals involved in this investigation.”

Alister Jack had been telling colleagues and journalists for at least a year that he thought a June or July election made the most strategic sense for his party. He has represented Scotland in the cabinet since 2019, under the premierships of Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

His controversial decision in 2021 to block the Scottish government’s gender self-ID reforms was seen as a significant moment in the demise of Nicola Sturgeon’s period as Scotland’s First Minister. In February 2024, he expressed “regret” after deleting all of his WhatsApp messages from during the pandemic. He said he erased his files to free up storage capacity on his phone in November 2021.

Fifth Tory politician in election probe

A Conservative politician in the Welsh Parliament is being investigated over a bet on the timing of the general election. Russell George is the fifth Conservative to face inquiries by the Gambling Commission.

It comes on the same day the Conservatives withdrew their support for two general election candidates, including George’s colleague Craig Williams, who is standing in the newly-named constituency of Montgomeryshire and Glyndŵr.

George, whose seat is Montgomeryshire, said he will co-operate fully with the commission, and has “stepped back” from the Senedd’s Conservative frontbench.

Meanwhile, a former Labour parliamentary candidate was suspended by his party after he said he made a “stupid error” in betting he would lose his bid to become an MP.

Labour and Plaid Cymru called for George to be suspended from the Conservative Senedd group. He is the second Welsh Conservative to leave the Welsh Tory frontbench in the last month, after Laura Anne Jones was stripped of her spokesperson role in an expenses row.

Williams, who had been a parliamentary aide to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, was the first Tory to admit he had placed a bet on the timing of the election. Earlier on Tuesday George had called on voters to back his colleague Mr Williams despite the decision by the Conservatives to withdraw the party’s support.

He said at the time: “It may seem old fashioned, but I believe in innocent until proven guilty.”

George’s constituency was also represented by Williams in Westminster before the dissolution of the UK parliament. He had been the party’s spokesman for mid Wales on the Conservative frontbench.

In a statement issued after The Guardian broke the story, George said: “Whilst I will cooperate fully with the Gambling Commission, it would not be appropriate to comment on this independent and confidential process. Doing so would only jeopardise and undermine the investigation. It is the Gambling Commission, not the media, that has the responsibility, powers and resources to properly investigate these matters and determine what, if any, action should be taken. I have stepped back from the shadow cabinet while the investigation is ongoing. I have done this as I do not wish to be an unnecessary distraction to their work.”

Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader in the Senedd, said George had informed him he had “received a letter from the Gambling Commission regarding bets on the timing of the general election”.

Davies added: “All other members of the Welsh Conservative [Senedd] group have confirmed that they have not placed any bets.”

Welsh Labour campaign chair Jessica Morden said: “It took Rishi Sunak almost two weeks to take action on one of his Conservative candidates. How long will it take Andrew RT Davies to suspend Russell George?”

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