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New gambling scandal risks punching electoral bruise for Tories | Politics News

Politics, as with comedy, is so often about timing.

And you’d have thought the Conservative official in charge of social media may have sensed danger before putting out an advert on party channels featuring a roulette wheel and the accompanying caption: “If you bet on Labour, you can never win.”

That’s because within hours of the button being pushed on that post, it was confirmed that a second Tory candidate was being investigated for allegedly placing a bet on the timing of the general election shortly before it was publicly announced.

Politics latest: Tory candidate facing gambling probe married to campaign director

Now, we also know that Laura Saunders – who is standing in Bristol North West – is married to the party’s director of campaigning, someone who you’d assume would have access to private information potentially about the election.

This matters legally because it is an offence to use inside information not available to others to gain an unfair advantage when placing a bet.

But it also matters politically for two reasons.

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Firstly – to risk stating the obvious – we are two weeks away from polling day and the incumbent government is trailing badly in the polls.

At the very least, Rishi Sunak wants to be talking about the risks (as he sees it) of a Labour administration and certainly not dodgy-looking activity in his own ranks.

Minutes and column inches count for more in the final stretch of an election campaign, and this is another story that will suck up bandwidth and crowd out the messages the Tories want to get out there.

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Secondly, this story has potential to do damage because it zeroes in on pre-existing political vulnerabilities present in the Tory party.

To be more specific, this risks being woven into toxic political behemoth of a topic often known as “Tory sleaze”.

So the thought process may go: “They were partying when the country was locked down, their mates were making money out of PPE in the pandemic, and now they even tried to cash in on the date of the general election.”

Yes, the party will correctly argue that in all these cases it was a small number of people breaking (or allegedly breaking) the rules.

But in the glare of the campaign, it might not matter, as – a bit like the D-Day story did with the accusation of an out of touch prime minister – this story risks punching an electoral bruise.

There’s one caveat to that though.

We in Westminster can sometimes overstate the degree to which stories like this do damage to one party, when the reality is they often serve to hurt all politicians in the minds of voters, regardless of their affiliation.

That may be offset by the inevitable party political emphasis that an election brings.

But given this campaign has been characterised by sense of apathy and lack of faith in the broader political class, don’t be surprised if this latest scandal dents confidence in all would-be leaders.

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