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General election live: James Cleverly says he has ‘no reason to believe’ cabinet ministers placed bets on date of vote | General election 2024


Cleverly says he has ‘no reason to believe’ cabinet ministers placed bets on election date

James Cleverly said he has “no reason to believe” that any cabinet ministers have betted on the election date.

“I am not in any way going to defend people that placed bets on that,” the home secretary told Sky News.

“There is an investigation by the Gambling Commission, and we have been told very, very clearly that we are not to discuss the investigations.”

He said he believes only a “small number of individuals” are involved.

Cleverly’s comments come after the Conservative party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, took a leave of absence amid claims he placed bets on the timing of the general election. Mason is the fourth Conservative reportedly being looked into over allegedly betting on the timing of the general election.

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Key events

The home secretary, James Cleverly, said that the Reform party leader, Nigel Farage, has repeatedly said his motivation is “complete toxicity towards the Conservative party”. He told Trevor Phillips on Sky News that he can’t see Farage in the future of the Tory party as things stand.

He talked about his pride in his former role as foreign secretary in supporting Ukraine defend itself against the full-scale Russia invasion launched in February 2022. He was speaking after Farage’s comments made in a BBC Panorama interview on Friday, in which he said that the west “provoked” Moscow into invading Ukraine through Nato and EU expansion eastward.

“When we see comments coming out of that party which are echoing Putin’s lines, saying that Churchill should have appeased Hitler, I cannot envisage how attitudes like that have any home in the Conservative party now or in the future.”

“The things that he and others have said – both about the conservative party and about world affairs – means I cannot see how it can be a natural home in the Conservative party.”

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Cleverly says he has ‘no reason to believe’ cabinet ministers placed bets on election date

James Cleverly said he has “no reason to believe” that any cabinet ministers have betted on the election date.

“I am not in any way going to defend people that placed bets on that,” the home secretary told Sky News.

“There is an investigation by the Gambling Commission, and we have been told very, very clearly that we are not to discuss the investigations.”

He said he believes only a “small number of individuals” are involved.

Cleverly’s comments come after the Conservative party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, took a leave of absence amid claims he placed bets on the timing of the general election. Mason is the fourth Conservative reportedly being looked into over allegedly betting on the timing of the general election.

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Aide described Rwanda scheme as ‘crap’ for ‘dramatic effect’, home secretary says

The home secretary, James Cleverly, who is the candidate for Braintree, is being interviewed on Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips programme.

He was asked about reports that James Sunderland, a Tory parliamentary candidate and aide to Cleverly, described the government’s Rwanda scheme as “crap” at a private event in April. The BBC broke the story after being passed the recording of the event.

Cleverly said:

So, I saw that headline and i was quite surprised because i know James has been very supportive both of me personally and of the policy.

Of course I have had a conversation with him and I have also heard the recording. And it is clear what he is doing. He is putting forward a very counterintuitive statement to grab the attention of the audience …

If you actually listen to what he then went on to say, he was saying that the impact, the effect is what matters. He went on to say that the deterrent effect we have seen working in Australia, which has an analogous policy.

He also said that when the first flights take off it will send a shock wave (his words), a shock wave across the channel, setting a very very clear message to the people smugglers and the people putting themselves in the hand of people smugglers.

“He did it clearly for dramatic effect, to grab the attention of the audience,” Cleverly added, insisting Sunderland is supportive of the government’s flagship Rwanda policy.

The Rwanda scheme involves sending some asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via irregular routes, including small boat crossings via the Channel, to the east African country.

People sent to Rwanda will have their asylum claims processed there and, if successful, granted refugee status in the country. If unsuccessful, they could seek asylum in another “safe third country” or apply to settle in Rwanda on other grounds.

The controversial five-year deal was initially introduced under the former home secretary, Priti Patel, in 2022 to tackle the growing numbers of people crossing the Channel in small boats. However, it has faced several legal challenges, which have prevented flights from taking off to Kigali.

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Betting scandal as bad for Tories as Partygate, says Michael Gove

As we mentioned in the opening summary, the housing secretary, Michael Gove, has told the Sunday Times that the election betting row is as damaging to the Conservatives as the Partygate scandal. Here are some more of his quotes given to the paper:

Gove said:

It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us. That’s the most potentially damaging thing. The perception that we operate outside the rules that we set for others. That was damaging at the time of Partygate and is damaging here …

If you’re in a privileged position [close] to the prime minister at the heart of a political operation and you use inside information to make additional money for yourself, that’s just not acceptable …

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.

Gove accused those involved of “sucking the oxygen out of the campaign”, saying that, just as with Partygate, “a few individuals end up creating an incredibly damaging atmosphere for the party”.

The incident does not reflect on the conduct of the majority of Tory supporters who are selling the party’s “big arguments” on the doorstep, he said. “So it’s both bad in itself, but also destructive to the efforts of all of those good people who are currently fighting hard for the Conservative vote.”

Michael Gove is standing down at the next general election. Photograph: Leon Neal/Reuters

You can read this useful explainer about the UK election betting scandal here.

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Opening summary

Good morning, and welcome to our continued coverage of the 2024 general election campaign.

Late on Saturday, the Sunday Times reported the Conservative party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, had taken a leave of absence amid claims he was among those who placed bets on the timing of the election. It was claimed dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.

A spokesperson for Mason told the newspaper that it would be inappropriate to comment during an investigation but he denies wrongdoing. Mason is the fourth Conservative reportedly being looked into by the Gambling Commission over bets allegedly placed on the date of the general election.

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.”

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”.

The betting scandal began with revelations in the Guardian about a wager placed by one of Sunak’s political aides, Craig Williams.

It is the last thing Rishi Sunak needs, with his party on track for heavy losses on 4 July; some polls suggest up to half of the cabinet, including the prime minister himself, are at risk of losing their seats.

The latest Opinium poll for the Observer puts Labour on 40% (unchanged compared with a week ago), with the Tories languishing on just 20% (down three on the week).

Here is some of what to expect on the campaign trail today:

  • Home secretary James Cleverly, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson and SNP leader John Swinney will be among those being interviewed by broadcasters this morning.

  • Rishi Sunak will be campaigning in North Yorkshire on Sunday, ahead of gearing up for the final two weeks on the election trail.

  • The Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper, who is also the Lib Dem health spokesperson, will be campaigning in the home counties to spread the message on improving ambulance response times to emergency callouts.

  • Leaders from Northern Ireland’s political parties will take part in a UTV debate.

  • Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross will be on the campaign trail in the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency.

It is Yohannes Lowe here for the next couple of hours. If you want to get my attention then please do email me on yohannes.lowe@theguardian.com.

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