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'Furious' Rishi Sunak tries to override betting scandal in UK election campaign

In a televised debate, Sunak went head-to-head with Labour’s Keir Starmer and challenged the Opposition leader eyeing his job over target issues such as taxes.
Last Updated : 27 June 2024, 12:55 IST

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London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he is “furious” about the scandal engulfing some of his Conservative Party candidates betting on the date of the general election, to be held on July 4, as the campaign entered its final week on Thursday.

In the last televised debate before the polls on Wednesday night, Britain's first Prime Minister of Indian heritage went head-to-head with Labour’s Keir Starmer and was clearly in attack mode as he challenged the Opposition leader eyeing his job over target issues such as taxes.

“Mark my words,” the 44-year-old prime minister said, pointing at Starmer, “your taxes are going up if he is in charge.”

Immigration was also high on the agenda, with both leaders trading blows over a lack of clear policy to tackle soaring illegal migrant figures, with Sunak cautioning voters to not "surrender" the country's borders to Labour.

While the overall media verdict was in his favour as he managed to hold firm during a large share of the fiery contest, the betting scandal continued to dominate the arguments.

"You have to lead from the front on issues like this. When one of my team was alleged to have been involved and investigated by the Gambling Commission, they were suspended within minutes, because I knew it made it really important to be swift,” said Starmer, with reference to the suspension of a Labour candidate who is under investigation by the gambling watchdog for betting against himself winning.

"The Prime Minister delayed and delayed and delayed until eventually he was bullied into taking action," the 61-year-old Starmer said.

Sunak, who told the audience that he was "furious" and "frustrated" over the allegations, has also had to suspend two of his Tory candidates who are under investigation following an internal inquiry.

"It was important to me that given the seriousness and the sensitivity of the matters at hand that they were dealt with properly, and that's what I've done," he stressed.

It came as four protesters were arrested on suspicion of trespassing on the grounds of Sunak's constituency home in North Yorkshire, while he was away on the campaign trail.

North Yorkshire Police said it had arrested the men "within one minute of them entering the grounds" of Sunak's home near Northallerton.

"The prime minister thanks the police for their swift response to keep him and his family safe. As this is a live police investigation, further queries should be directed to the relevant police force," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The arrests are connected to a protest by campaigners from Youth Demand. It describes itself as a group of young people who want "the Tories and the Labour Party to commit to a two-way arms embargo on Israel, and to stop all new oil and gas licences".

In the final week of the election campaign, both leaders will try and focus on some of the key swing constituencies starting with the Midlands region of England.

Labour has held a firm 20-point lead in all pre-poll surveys over the incumbent Tories throughout the campaign, making this a tough election for the governing party which has been in office for 14 years.

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Published 27 June 2024, 12:55 IST

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