July 20, 2024

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Tory candidate in gambling probe married to party campaign chief

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A Conservative parliamentary candidate under investigation over a bet placed on the timing of the UK election is married to the party’s director of campaigning, according to Tory officials.

Laura Saunders, a Conservative staffer who is standing for election in Bristol North West, is being investigated by the Gambling Commission over an election-related bet, people familiar with the matter said.

Separately, two party officials said that Saunders is the wife of Tony Lee, the Conservative director of campaigning.

Saunders is the latest figure to face scrutiny over bets on the timing of the election. The gambling regulator launched a probe into Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s closest parliamentary aide last week and a police officer from the premier’s protection detail was arrested earlier this week.

The Conservatives said: “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.”

Saunders and Lee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The revelations threaten to further damage the Tory party’s already struggling re-election effort. The Conservatives are trailing Labour heavily in the polls, several of which have predicted a catastrophic defeat for Sunak and his party at the July 4 poll. The Tory campaign has been hit by Sunak’s own blunders, including returning early from D-Day commemorations.

Saunders has worked for the party since 2015, most recently helping to co-ordinate its international work liaising with other centre-right parties.

Lee previously described himself online as a political campaigner “with over 20 years experience in running elections” and said he had led the successful campaign to re-elect former West Midlands mayor Andy Street in 2021. Lee’s…

2024-06-20 04:04:54

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