Starmer says he would not let SNP hold new independence referendum or lift veto on gender recognition bill – as it happened

Gambling News

Rishi Sunak has refused to say whether any more Conservative activists or candidates might be drawn into the Gambling Commission’s investigation into alleged suspicious betting on the date of the election.

Speaking in Wales, where he was asked if any more party members were implicated in the affair, Sunak said:

There is not much more I can add to what I have said previously. There are multiple investigations that are currently happening.

It is right that those investigations are allowed to proceed. They are independent, they are necessarily confidential, as you will appreciate …

What I can tell you is, as I said, if anyone is found to have broken the rules, they should not only face the full consequences of the law, but I will ensure that they are booted out of the Conservative party too.

Two Tory election candidates are being investigated, Craig Williams and Laura Saunders, as well as Saunders’ husband, Tony Lee, who is now on leave of absence from his job as campaigns director at CCHQ.

A police officer from Sunak’s close protection team has also been arrested over alleged bets about the timing of the election.

Rishi Sunak speaking at the launch of the Welsh Conservative manifesto in Rhyl.

The Gambling Commission has confirmed that the investigation into allegations relating to election date betting is into potential criminal offences.

The investigation is into the use of confidential information to place the bet, which would amount to cheating, which is a criminal offence.

The relevant legislation is section 42 of the 2005 Gambling Act, with the punishment being a fine or a maximum of two years’ imprisonment.

Under the legislation a person cheats at gambling if they do “anything for the purpose of enabling or assisting another person to cheat at gambling”.

The law also says: “It is immaterial whether a person who cheats improves his chances of winning anything, or wins anything.”

A Gambling Commission spokesperson said:

Currently the commission is investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election. This is an ongoing investigation, and the commission cannot provide any further details at this time.

If someone uses confidential information in order to gain an unfair advantage when betting, this may constitute an offence of cheating under Section 42 of the Gambling Act, which is a criminal offence.

Keir Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of showing a “total lack of leadership” over the Tory election date betting allegations. Speaking to broadcasters today, he said:

The prime minister is showing a total lack of leadership on this.

Let’s look at what actually happened. In relation to a general election, the instincts of these Tories when a general election is called is not how do we make this work for the country, but how do I make some money? And that tells you a broader picture about politics.

Of course, he should suspend these candidates. If they were my candidates, they would be gone by now, out of the door. You need to take tough action, but he’s not even saying today whether there’s more involved. [See 12.07pm.]

There’s a total lack of leadership. But it makes it clear the choice at this election of carrying on with the chaos, division and failure of last 14 years – on top of that, this politics of self entitlement.

I think we need to change that, and one of the big changes, if there’s a Labour government, is politics returned to service. It should be a public service, and I’m determined, if we get the chance, that that is the change that we’ll bring about.

Starmer on election bets scandal – ‘the instinct of these Tories is ‘how do I make some money?”

The Labour leader repeats calls for the PM to suspend Tory candidates being investigated for alleged bets on the election date https://t.co/rKgUMLa8PY pic.twitter.com/CZO9MDFRJp

— ITV News Politics (@ITVNewsPolitics) June 21, 2024

Rishi Sunak has also warned voters not to “sleepwalk” into a Labour government.

Speaking at the launch of the Welsh Conservative party’s manifesto, he said:

I warn you, don’t fall into Labour’s trap, don’t sleepwalk to July 4.

I know you want to send us a message, but this is not a byelection. It will determine who governs our country for the next five years and potentially much longer.

For if Labour get in they will change the rules so it’s much harder to ever get them out. They want to give 16-year-olds a vote not because on principle they think that they are adults, but because they think they’ll vote for them.

Once they have got power they will change every rule to make sure that they keep it. We can’t let that happen, friends, and it’s only we Conservatives who can stop it.

Sunak said he accepted people had their “frustrations” with the government. But he went on:

I have heard you, but once you have handed Keir Starmer and Labour a blank cheque, you cannot get it back.

Rishi Sunak has refused to say whether any more Conservative activists or candidates might be drawn into the Gambling Commission’s investigation into alleged suspicious betting on the date of the election.

Speaking in Wales, where he was asked if any more party members were implicated in the affair, Sunak said:

There is not much more I can add to what I have said previously. There are multiple investigations that are currently happening.

It is right that those investigations are allowed to proceed. They are independent, they are necessarily confidential, as you will appreciate …

What I can tell you is, as I said, if anyone is found to have broken the rules, they should not only face the full consequences of the law, but I will ensure that they are booted out of the Conservative party too.

Two Tory election candidates are being investigated, Craig Williams and Laura Saunders, as well as Saunders’ husband, Tony Lee, who is now on leave of absence from his job as campaigns director at CCHQ.

A police officer from Sunak’s close protection team has also been arrested over alleged bets about the timing of the election.

The Conservative party has revived its claim that Labour would raise council tax after Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, said it did not have any plans for an increase “at the moment”.

In an inteview with BBC Radio Merseyside this morning, asked if Labour would consider a council tax revaluation for England (where the tax is still levied on the basis of property values in 1991, when the system was set up), Rayner replied:

At the moment, if I’m really honest to your listeners, we’ve got a lot on our plate. I want to build 1.5m homes, which I think is a huge task … We’re going to look at how we can use the affordable homes grant … These are our priorities. Our priority is not to do anything with the council tax banding at the moment.

In reponse, the Conservative party issued a statement from Laura Trott, the chief secretary to the Treasury, saying:

Angela Rayner has confirmed big council tax rises are on the cards – just not ‘at the moment’. Rebanding of council tax is one of seventeen tax rises Labour have not ruled out.

The Conservatives have repeatedly challenged Labour to rule out council tax increases, and Labour has refused. In fact, the amount people pay in council tax normally rises every year anyway. When the Tories call for council tax not to go up, they mean there should be no revaluation (which would lead to some people paying more), no additional council tax bands created and no cut to council tax discounts. These are promises the Conservatives are making for the next parliament, if they win the election.

Labour’s position has been confusing. On Monday Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “We are not going to do council tax rebanding.” But on Tuesday, in his LBC phone-in, Keir Starmer did not repeat this line. Asked about council tax going up, he just said nothing in Labour’s plans required tax rises beyond those already announced.

Rayner’s comment about not wanting to look at council tax “at the moment” is similar to what Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, told the Financial Times in a recent interview. She said that, even if the case for a council tax revaluation was “sensible”, it was not something she wanted to use her “political energy” on because she had other priorities.

Council tax is a highly regressive tax and many mainstream economists and thinktanks (like the Institute for Fiscal Studies, here) argue that the case for a revaluation is compelling. But both main parties have stuck with the current valuations because reform would be contentious.

Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Labour leader and first minister, has said having Labour in power in Cardiff and London would let the party “unleash Wales’ full potential”.

The Welsh party has published its manifesto this morning and in the foreward Gething says:

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for – the chance for the Labour Party to unleash Wales’ full potential.

A Welsh Labour government, working with a Labour government in Westminster, led by Keir Starmer. We have to seize this opportunity. In the words of the poet Seamus Heaney, it is time to let hope and history rhyme.

Peter Kyle, the shadow science secretary, was doing the interview round for Labour this morning. On LBC, he was asked four times by Nick Ferrari if he agreed with Keir Starmer when he said on the BBC Question Time leaders’ special last night that Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better PM than Boris Johnson. Kyle repeatedly refused to answer. The first time the question was posed, he said:

Those were difficult days in our politics, and we each had to find our own way through it.

But the key thing is in 2019, we had that general election, and the voters told us definitively. If you’re in politics, you’ve got to listen to voters. And they told us definitively that our party had to change. Keir Starmer led our party through that change. And he now has a party that’s fit for service because of the change.

As Ferrari tried again three more times, Kyle just repeated version of this answer.

UK state debt rose to levels not witnessed for more than 60 years in May despite lower-than-expected government borrowing, PA Media reports. PA says:

Official data, which comes only two weeks prior to the election, underscores the financial challenge facing the next government, with both Labour and the Conservatives pledging to cut debt.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that public sector net debt as a proportion to UK GDP (gross domestic product) rose to 99.8% for the month.

This marks the highest reading since March 1961, the ONS said.

Both Labour and the Conservative parties have said in the run up to the election that they will meet a fiscal rule to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio over the next five years.

Rishi Sunak promised to reduce debt as one of his five pledges at the start of 2023.

Rishi Sunak will be speaking at the launch of the Welsh Conservative manifesto later, and David TC Davies, the Welsh secretary, made a rare appearance on the media round earlier in anticipation of the launch.

Davies said that, if Tories have been betting on the date of the election using inside knowledge, that was “totally unacceptable”. But he was much more relaxed about another potentially embarassing story for the Conservatives – the news that the former Tory energy minister Chris Skidmore is backing Labour.

Davies told Sky News that “he was “not in the least bit bothered about” the revelation.

He also suggested that Skidmore’s decision was influenced by his earnings as an adviser on renewable energy issues. He told Sky:

Chris has become a bit distracted because of the work he’s doing for the renewable industry, I believe. So, perhaps that’s also impacted on his political views now he’s become much more interested in working in industry.

And he told LBC:

I’m siding with those people who don’t want to be forced into an electric car just yet, who think that 100,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry, which is what’s at stake if Labour wins, are perhaps more important than Chris Skidmore’s earnings in the renewables industry.

In an article for the Guardian, Skidmore, a former energy minister who also led a net zero review for the goverment, said he was backing Labour because he could no longer defend the Conservative record on the climate crisis. He said:

Sunak’s decision instead to side with climate deniers and to deliberately politicise the energy transition is perhaps the greatest tragedy of his premiership. It has cost us not just environmentally but also economically. It is a decision that will also cost votes, including those in my own constituency. For the first time, I cannot vote for a party that has boasted of new oil and gas licences in its manifesto or that now argues that net zero is a burden and not a benefit. Instead, like many others who know that we have neither choice nor any more time, and need to tackle the climate crisis now, I have decided that the Labour party is best placed to achieve economic growth and the green industrial revolution. Net zero is one of its five key priorities, and for this reason I will be voting Labour at this election.

Labour’s policy platform is sensible and mainstream. And as I found from speaking to thousands of people across the country during my Net Zero review, it is what the public wants and what business needs. It is potentially the greatest economic opportunity of our lifetimes – and the UK can’t afford to miss out. We could be delivering greater energy security from homegrown energy rather than foreign-owned fossil fuels, reducing energy bills through cheaper and more sustainable renewables, and securing billions in private investment that could transform our communities. It’s time for a new government to recognise and embrace that opportunity to deliver jobs, face the future and be proud of what the UK can and will achieve.

In an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, was asked why she said she was “absolutely gutted” when she heard that Jeremy Corbyn had been suspended from the Labour party.

She replied:

Since then we’ve seen that Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t really acted in a way that would have been in keeping with the Labour party. He’s now standing against the Labour party so therefore he’s not a member of the Labour party any more.

She also said Labour had to take “some responsibility” for the Tory chaos that followed the 2019 election because the party did not offer an alternative that was attractive to voters.

‘Why does all this make Sir Keir Starmer so uncomfortable?’@kategarraway and @adilray question Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner on Sir Keir Starmer’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn. pic.twitter.com/rG0Yhzwbha

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 21, 2024

Labour has announced it will aim to deliver major transport projects 25% faster and 20% cheaper than current levels if it wins the election, PA Media reports. PA says:

The targets are based on the expected findings of a review into rail and urban transport infrastructure commissioned by the party and led by former Siemens UK boss Juergen Maier.

Labour said it will “apply industry-leading best practice to major transport projects from the start”, and publish a “long-term strategy for transport”.

The party accused the Conservatives of having a “broken approach to infrastructure”, claiming delays to large schemes have reached “unsustainable levels” which are “costing the taxpayer dearly”.

It cited examples such as planning costs for the Lower Thames Crossing – a proposed new road tunnel between Essex and Kent – reaching “an eyewatering £800m”, and the decision to scrap HS2 north of Birmingham.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh and Maier will visit Manchester Airport on Friday to discuss options for improving rail connectivity across the North of England.

Haigh said: “Levelling up has been an absolute sham under the Conservatives – and nowhere is this more apparent than the woeful state of our transport infrastructure.

“Labour is committed to tackling this from day one. We will turn the page on years of Tory waste, chaos and broken promises. Improving rail connectivity and capacity across the North is an absolute priority for Labour – and we will deliver value for the taxpayer while turbocharging delivery of transport projects.”

Maier said: “The North of England has borne the brunt of a series of broken promises on transport infrastructure and our economy is suffering as a result.

“It has been 10 years since a new rail line across the Pennines was promised and we’re still waiting for construction to get underway. The uncertainty created by chronically over-promising and underdelivering is lethal for investor and passenger confidence.”

Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Helen Sullivan.

Paul Scully, the former Tory minister who is standing down at the election, has delivered a good assessment of why the election date betting allegations are so damaging for his party. As the Telegraph reports, Scully told GB News that this was “a punishment election” – and that the allegations just give voters a further reason to punish his party. He said:

It feels like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and we’re not millipedes. We’ve only got two feet.

There’s only so much capacity. When you have got effectively what is a punishment election, when you’ve got people that are wanting to punish the Conservatives and so they’re going to be looking under the microscope at absolutely everything that we do, and then we’re making it easy for them to punish us even further on that basis.

Scully also said since the election was called things seemed to to have gone from “bad to worse” for the party.

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More detail now on those retail sales figures.

Spending in shops and online bounced back strongly last month as better weather, falling inflation and rising consumer confidence boosted spending.

The monthly update from the Office for National Statistics showed the volume of retail sales rose by 2.9% in May, following a weather-affected drop of 1.8% in April.

The ONS said most retailers had a better month in May, with marked increases in the clothing and footwear and household goods sectors. Clothing sales rose by 5.4% as retailers managed to shift summer stock.

The official data followed the release of the latest snapshot of consumer confidence from GfK showing sentiment standing at its highest level in two and a half years.

Over the three months to May – a better guide to the underlying trend in spending – retail sales rose by 1%. Even so, they remained 0.5% below the level immediately before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020.

Retail sales account for less than half of total consumer spending and exclude categories such as car sales, eating out and hotel stays.

In economy news: the government borrowed less money than predicted in May but saw debt lift to levels not witnessed for more than 60 years, according to official figures, PA reports:

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that public sector net borrowing hit £15bn for the month. It comes amid significant scrutiny on the state finances with only two weeks until the General Election.

Initial data found public sector borrowing – the difference between Government spending and income – was £0.8bn higher than the same month a year earlier. It was also the third highest May since monthly records began in 1993.

Nevertheless, this was £0.6bn below forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the Government’s official forecaster, and was also less than economists had predicted.

The ONS also found that public sector net debt as a proportion to UK GDP (gross domestic product) rose to 99.8% – the highest level since March 1961.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to reduce debt as one his five pledges at the start of 2023.

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has appeared on the Today programme, where he was asked if he was worried about the reputation of the Tory Party on questions of ethics and integrity, in light of the allegations about betting on the timing of the General Election.

Well, of course I am.

I took a decision when I entered the Wales Office as Secretary of State that I’d do two things immediately to set an example. The first was to get rid of the ministerial car, so I’ve been happily travelling around on the Tube ever since, which I don’t think is appropriate for all Cabinet ministers, by the way, because some of them have more security issues than I do.

The second thing I did was to look round, notice there was alcohol in the building and ask for it all to be removed within 48 hours, for there to be no alcohol to be served at any official Wales Office events at all, and for nobody – including and of course especially myself – to be drinking alcohol at any official functions at any time of the day or night.”

When Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Conservative prime minister, called a snap election in the pouring rain last month, he would have hoped his party would have closed at least some of the 20-point deficit in the opinion polls.

Instead, it seems the only members of his party who have profited since are some of his Downing street aides – in a political betting scandal that has swiftly reinforced prevailing anti-Conservative stereotypes in the British public’s imagination.

Political scandals in Britain do not have to involve large sums of money, but they linger in the public imagination if they feel politicians have been acting with impunity. Fifteen years ago, dozens of MPs were forced out after an expenses scandal. One Conservative quit after asking taxpayers to pay £1,645 for an ornamental duck house.

More pertinently, Sunak’s predecessor as prime minister but one, Boris Johnson, was forced out of office two years ago over another scandal: the “Partygate” affair.

Johnson, aides and advisers, it emerged, had held a string of parties and drinks events in Downing Street during the coronavirus crisis, at times when the British public were forced to remain at home, unable even to visit sick or dying relatives.

Licenses that have already been approved for fossil fuel projects will be carried on, Rayner says, when asked about the Rosebank oilfield, and whether yesterday’s supreme court ruling on Surrey council will have any bearing on the controversial development.

Husain is pressing her on the ruling from the supreme court that Surrey council should have considered the climate change impacts of new oil wells.

Rayner won’t be drawn on the implications of the ruling.

But, asked if Labour would have to reapprove the licence for the Rosebank development, she says:

Licences that have already been approved will carry on.

If there’s a decision to be made at the time, then that will come to that secretary of state to make that decision.

But what we are very clear on is that we can’t rely on it into the future, we have to have a just transition into renewables and Labour is the only party that has a credible plan on how we get there and meet our net zero targets.

Here is some context:

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