UK Labour candidate suspended after allegedly betting against himself

Election gambling scandal widens to opposition party after Conservatives withdraw support for two of their candidates

British prime minister Rishi Sunak at the launch of the Scottish Conservative manifesto at the Apex Grassmarket Hotel in Edinburgh on Monday. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The UK’s Labour Party has suspended an election candidate who allegedly bet he would lose his bid to become an MP, as a Gambling Commission investigation into political betting expanded.

A Labour spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that the gambling regulator had launched an investigation into Kevin Craig, its candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

Mr Craig bet that he would lose at next week’s general election, according to a Labour official with direct knowledge of the matter. On current polling, the seat is a toss-up between Labour and the Conservatives.

Labour said that, after the “receipt of communication” from the Gambling Commission, it had suspended Mr Craig, adding: “the Labour Party upholds the highest standards for our parliamentary candidates, as the public rightly expects from any party hoping to serve, which is why we have acted immediately in this case”.


Labour is also set return the £100,000 donation it took from Mr Craig last year, according to party officials.

Mr Craig did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Craig is founder and chief executive of PLMR, a Westminster lobbying firm. His selection to be the candidate to represent Labour for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich was controversial because he was on a shortlist of one.

He started donating to the Labour Party in 2005 in a series of gifts that culminated in a donation of £100,000 in May 2023.

The suspension drags Labour into a scandal that had hitherto engulfed the Conservatives and the police.

Earlier on Tuesday, prime minister Rishi Sunak withdrew support from two Conservative party candidates who had allegedly been involved with betting on the timing of the election.

After backing Craig Williams and Laura Saunders for several days, Mr Sunak pulled the plug on the candidates on Tuesday morning.

UK election candidate Craig Williams, who has lost the support of the Conservative party as a betting scandal widens. Photograph: UK Parliament/PA Wire

London’s Metropolitan Police also announced that five more officers were under investigation by the commission for allegedly placing bets on the timing of the election, in the wake of the first police officer being arrested last week.

The Conservative party said: “As a result of ongoing internal inquiries, we have concluded that we can no longer support Craig Williams or Laura Saunders as parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming general election.

“We have checked with the Gambling Commission that this decision does not compromise the investigation that they are conducting, which is rightly independent and ongoing.”

The Met Police said the five additional officers had not been arrested or suspended. “Decisions on whether they will be subject to any restrictions will be taken in due course,” it said.

Unlike the officer arrested last week, who was one of Mr Sunak’s bodyguards, the Met said none of the five under investigation had worked in a close-protection role.

Ms Saunders, a Tory staffer and wife of the party’s campaign director, is standing in Bristol North West while Mr Williams, a former parliamentary aide to Mr Sunak, is standing in Montgomeryshire.

Because nominations have closed, all three candidates will appear on ballot papers for their parties but they no longer enjoy official endorsement.

In a statement made after being dropped on Tuesday, Mr Williams said he had committed “an error of judgment, not an offence” in placing the bet, adding: “I intend to clear my name.”

Mr Sunak has said he is “extremely angry” about the scandal, but until now he added that he had wanted to allow official investigations into the possible use in election betting of privileged information run their course before taking any disciplinary action.

Asked why Mr Sunak had changed his mind, one Tory official said simply: “Further inquiries.”

Asked if other Tories might be linked to the affair in the coming days, the official said: “I don’t know. We find out names from the press.”

The commission has widened its investigation to look at hundreds of bets placed in the days before Mr Sunak called the election for July 4th and is sifting through wagers – for which individuals stood to gain more than £199 – to identify any potential links to the Conservative party.

Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said the regulator was “diligently investigating” the scandal “independently and without fear or favour”.

Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, wrote to the Gambling Commission last week asking it to identify people under investigation.

Mr Rhodes said in his reply to Mr McFadden – released on Tuesday – that the commission would not release the names of the suspects “to protect the integrity of the investigation” and to ensure a fair outcome. He said those contacted by the commission had been asked to treat the matter confidentially.

“We understand the desire for information. However, to protect the integrity of the investigation and to ensure a fair and just outcome, we are unable to comment on any detail at this time, including the name of any person who may be under suspicion,” he said.

Meanwhile, four men were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass at Mr Sunak’s home in northern England on Tuesday, local police said in a statement.

“We have arrested four people in the grounds of the Prime Minister’s constituency home this afternoon. Our officers were with the four men within one minute of them entering the grounds,” the statement said.

Campaign group Youth Demand posted videos on X of a man entering a lake on the property and defecating in what he said was an act of protest against Mr Sunak’s government. The group wants to stop new oil and gas licences being issued and also calls for a two-way arms embargo on Israel. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024