Conservative Party is facing ‘punishment election’, says ex-minister

A former minister has warned that the Conservatives are facing a “punishment election”, as a gambling row continues to engulf the party.

Paul Scully, who served as the minister for London from 2020 to 2023, said his party is “shooting ourselves in the foot” during the election campaign with a series of gaffes and scandals. 

Several Conservatives are facing official investigations by the gambling watchdog over allegations that they placed bets on the election date before it was public.

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Conservative candidate Laura Saunders said she “will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission” probe, while her husband, the party’s director of campaigning, Tony Lee, took a leave of absence amid reports the couple were being investigated by the gambling regulator.

Gambling scandal shows Rishi Sunak can’t shake the stench of Conservative sleaze

It came after the arrest of one of the prime minister’s police protection officers and the previous revelation of a Gambling Commission investigation into his parliamentary aide, Craig Williams.

Confronted over the scandal on a special BBC Question Time programme on Thursday, Rishi Sunak confessed to being “incredibly angry” over the allegations that have engulfed his campaign.

The prime minister said: “I was incredibly angry to learn of these allegations. It is a really serious matter.”

He added: “I want to be crystal clear that if anyone has broken the rules, they should face the full force of the law.”

Asked why the candidates have not been suspended while the investigations take place, Sunak said: “All I can say is, they are serious investigations. It’s right they are done thoroughly, confidentially.”

He added that if anyone has broken the rules, he will “make sure they are booted out of the Conservative Party.”

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called on the Conservatives to suspend both Saunders and Williams.

Asked if things were things had gone from “bad to worse” for the Conservative Party since Rishi Sunak called the election late last month, Paul Scully said: “It feels like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and we’re not millipedes — we’ve only got two feet.

He told GB News: “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.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website. Subscribe to our daily newsletter for all the latest election news and analysis.