20 Jun 2024

Alleged election betting is ‘unhelpful distraction’ says Conservative minister

Europe Editor and Presenter

We spoke to Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake.

Matt Frei: I want to start off by talking about bets, the scandal around bets. You’ve lost your campaign manager for the last two crucial weeks of this campaign. Given the fact that the campaign has been so disastrous for you so far, is that a blessing in disguise?

Kevin Hollinrake: What I’ve read and what I know about this is it sounds appalling, an investigation’s going on by the Gambling Commission, quite rightly. We should wait for the outcome of that investigation. Of course these allegations are serious, but must be properly investigated. Due process must be followed.

Matt Frei: Should these people be suspended?

Kevin Hollinrake: It depends on the investigation, what happens in the outcome of that investigation. I think the presumption of innocence is a very important principle. We should follow due process and then act accordingly.

Matt Frei: But how embarrassing and how annoying [is it?]. There you are, knocking on doors, trying to persuade people to still have trust in the Tory party, and vote for your party in the coming elections and the people at the very centre of the campaign, at the nerve centre of what’s going on right now, are placing bets when they shouldn’t be.

Kevin Hollinrake: It’s a very unhelpful distraction, you’re quite right. It’s absolutely wrong if the people have done what has been alleged. It’s completely wrong, clearly. But, we are still getting good feedback on the doorstep. We see strong support for us on the doors I am knocking on.

Matt Frei: It raises the spectre of a lack of designated adults around the prime minister, whether it’s him leaving Normandy early or whether it’s this thing. Just a lack of discipline in what was once a kind of awesome machine of party political campaigning.

Kevin Hollinrake: What you’re talking about are isolated incidents. What we are seeing on the ground is people are voting on 4 July for the next five years. That’s what people should focus on. Who’s best placed to run this country over the next five years. We’ve stabilised the economy. Inflation was at 11 per cent, it’s now at 2 per cent. The economy is now growing after being predicted to go into recession. Things are much better in terms of our outlook. What the key thing is now, what we do over the next five years, in my view, Rishi Sunak is a far better person to look after our economy, look after our interests over the five years compared to Keir Starmer. And that’s certainly what I’m hearing on the doorstep. People have no appetite for Keir Starmer and people need to focus on what we’ve done over the last 14 years, how we’ve improved education. Our young children are the best readers now in the western world. Street crime is halved. 100,000 more doctors and nurses in the NHS. That’s the record we’re standing on. And we see many more positive years ahead after some very difficult years behind us. And we’ve supported businesses and people’s jobs through this difficult time. And now we’ve seen better years ahead. Stick with Rishi Sunak rather than Keir Starmer, which in my view is a massive risk.

Matt Frei: It sounds like a party political broadcast, and I just wonder whether people are listening to that message, given all the other scandals of the campaign. But I want to ask you something else. The Bank of England did not lower interest rates, but they might do it. The top dogs in the Bank of England hinted that they might do it in the next month. If they lower those interest rates in the next month, and I know your inflation target’s now down to 2 per cent, do you then regret that you went early to this election? You should have waited a bit longer, shouldn’t you?

Kevin Hollinrake: It’s good news we’re even having this conversation, The Bank of England would not be thinking about reducing interest rates and you wouldn’t be talking about it if inflation wasn’t at 2 per cent, the target range, from 11.1 per cent. Very few people thought we’d get to this point in time within 18 months. That’s what we’ve delivered. Careful money management, careful management of the economy. So that’s really good news that the Bank of England is thinking about that. So I think people can have more confidence for the future.

Matt Frei: One final brief, if I may. We had the largest number of small boats crossing the channel, partly because of the weather. You can’t stop the bets and you’re still not stopping the boats.

Kevin Hollinrake: One good thing we’ve managed to do, despite very difficult circumstances in terms of Labour opposing what we want to do in terms of the Rwanda legislation, what that legislation already does, it means those people crossing the channel no longer go into hotels, they go into detention. That will be a significant deterrent. And if people choose anything other than Conservatives on 4 July, then they’re more likely to get Keir Starmer, who will scrap that legislation on day one, all that hard work getting that legislation through which changes that whole dynamic.