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TUESDAY 16 JULY  2024

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MPs in betting scandal
are no better than City wide boys making easy money on insider trading

I know the country hasn’t got two brass farthings to rub together, but are we sliding into moral bankruptcy too?

 

Some of the news lately has made me feel soiled just reading it.

 

Take the scandal of political insiders betting on the date of the General Election. One of those accused was a police officer in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s protection team.

 

He was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office. Six other Metropolitan Police officers are also being investigated.

 

The Gambling Commission, the industry regulator, is investigating Conservative parliamentary candidates who are suspected of betting on the election date. One of them is Bristol North West candidate Laura Saunders, whose husband Tony Lee is the Tories’ director of campaigning.

 

He has taken leave of absence from his job, along with Nick Mason, the party’s chief data officer.

 

Labour isn’t immune either. One of their candidates, Kevin Craig, allegedly bet on himself to lose in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

 

We put our trust in the police and our MPs. Is this how they repay us?

 

It is a moot point how much of this is illegal, at least as far as the politicians are concerned. It all depends on who knew what, and when. But it is certainly unethical.

 

If the accusations are true, then the politicians concerned are no better than City wide boys raking in easy money from insider trading.

 

They might not even see it as a crime; or at worst a victimless one. After all, who is hurt? Only the bookies – and no one has got any sympathy for them.

 

But to me, it stinks of corruption. If these were Premier League footballers, they would be banned from the sport. Ivan Toney, the Brentford forward who made a crucial intervention for England when he came on as a substitute in the Euros on Sunday evening, is just back from an eight-month ban for betting against his own team. The FA also fined him £50,000.

 

Pressed over election gambling, Rishi Sunak told journalists: “I am furious to have learnt of these allegations.” And he said Parliament could change the rules on gambling after the election.

 

Sir Keir Starmer, in a quote that might come back to haunt him, said: “I think that in the last 14 years politics has become too much about self-entitlement and MPs thinking about what they could get for themselves.”

 

He added: “The instinct of these people to think the first thing they should do is try to make money, that was the wrong instinct, and we have to change that.”

 

He is right. Those in public life must be above reproach. Politicians seeking election are hoping to represent us. Well, this lot don’t represent me. I know we can’t anticipate every human flaw, but is anyone doing their due diligence on candidates and coppers?

 

There is so much wrong with our political system, most of it dating back to Edwardian times when it was assumed that only gentlemen sat on the green leather benches.

 

Parliament needs genuine, radical reform: from the decrepit state of the Palace of Westminster to the way MPs vote for their own pay awards; and to the ambiguous rules on expenses, second homes and now gambling.

 

There must be clarity, scrutiny and ruthless enforcement of the rules.

 

While they’re at it, they might also look at the terrible hours they keep and the lack of childcare arrangements, as well as the drinking culture in the House. All of these discourage women from standing for Parliament and make those who have feel uneasy.

 

By the way, as I write, you can get 120-1 at Betfair on the Tories gaining an overall majority. Go on, all you would-be MPs, I dare you. Or do you know something I don’t?

 

*****

 

Every Christmas, a family round the corner from us turn their house into an extravagant vision of Santa’s wonderland.

 

Reindeers prance along the rooftop, scores of lights blink Happy Christmas and Santa himself – well, a 12ft blow-up version of the great man – dances a merry jig.

 

Children stop to marvel at the joyous display. Adults stare in wonderment too – as they tot up the likely electricity bill.

 

This year, as a gesture to his “football-mad” wife, the man who puts this tableau together has done the same for the Euros. Flags of St George flutter and giant versions of England players dribble rings round the opposition with a little help from an upward draught.

 

Or at least they did. The day after the team’s dismal display against Slovenia, my wife was passing the house as the same gentleman deflated the balloons. He told her he wanted to “show his displeasure” at the team’s performance.

 

He’s not alone; we all felt a bit let down. The England players – on paper, a formidable bunch – dithered but never dazzled.

 

It is not because they are exhausted after a long season; it’s the Euros, everyone’s had a tough season. It is nothing to do with Gareth Southgate’s tactics or coaching methods either.

 

It is because they are frightened of losing. Their first instinct when they receive a pass is to get rid of the ball. They pass sideways; they pass backwards; they seldom run at opponents. They are scared to attack because that might leave them vulnerable to counterattack.

 

And so fans who had spent hundreds of pounds on tickets, flights and hotels to follow their heroes had to endure the tedium of a 0-0 draw, while wondering whether the national game still has a beating pulse.

 

It was the same in English rugby until the mood changed with the emergence of dashing teams such as Northampton Saints and Harlequins. Finally, the national team threw off the shackles, began to win, entertained. That way lies glory.

 

By Sunday, our neighbour had put aside his doubts about Southgate’s team and his balloons were reflated ready for the match against Slovakia. But until the last few seconds of play, he must have been wondering: “Where does she keep the pins?”

 

Then, as the desperation of looming elimination from a tournament they were meant to win took hold, they finally got it. Jude Bellingham scored his wonder goal and in extra time Harry Kane stole the winner.

 

Keep it up, lads – attack, attack, attack. It’s too late to save my finger nails but you could reprieve the toes.

 

*****

 

The French have held their noses and sent out a message, not just to their arrogant, egotistical President Emmanuel Macron, but to ineffectual liberal leaders across Europe.

 

They have voted decisively for the far Right – and many others for the far Left, too – in their despair at the political class. We will know next Sunday, when the final round of voting takes place, whether it was merely a protest vote or a political earthquake.

 

But their message is already clear: “We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take this any more.”

 

That line is from the 1976 movie Network, written by Paddy Chayefsky, three times an Oscar winner, and spoken by the great actor Peter Finch as the movie’s mad, messianic news anchor Howard Beale.

 

It is almost 50 years old but perfectly sums up the times we live in. The British people are sending the same message to Rishi Sunak. And before Sir Keir Starmer gets too smug, he would be wise to listen to it before he sets foot in Downing Street.

 

He says he will solve the immigration crisis, stop the boats, take control of our borders. But he offers no detail on how.

 

If it turns out that he’s all fur coat and no knickers, he will hear a rebel yell that will make Chayefsky’s words seem tame.

 

*****

 

Council boss Bayo Dosunmu, the £187,000 a year chief executive of the broke and dysfunctional London Borough of Lambeth, has been arrested and charged with drug and motoring offences.

 

Dosunmu, 46, from Hammersmith, West London, whom I wrote about in this column recently, is accused of failing to stop after a road accident; being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; possession of Class A drugs; and driving without insurance.

 

He was appointed to the top town hall job in 2022 and is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday August 1.

 

Just thought you’d like to know.

 

*****

 

So, like me, Rick McNeill, formerly of this parish, is a Bob Monkhouse fan. I wonder if he also shares my admiration for Dave Allen.

 

You can almost hear him telling this one, sitting on a bar stool, smoking, nursing a glass of what might be whiskey…

 

A nun gets up and walks down a corridor in the convent. The first sister she meets says: “Well, you got out of the bed on the wrong side this morning.”

 

Soon she passes another, who says: “Well, you got out of bed on the wrong side this morning.”

 

Then she runs into the Mother Superior, who is about to speak when the nun interrupts: “Don’t say it! Don’t say, ‘Well, you got out of bed on the wrong side this morning’.”

 

The Mother Superior replies: “I wasn’t going to say any such thing. I just wondered why you’re wearing the Bishop’s shoes.”



RICHARD DISMORE



2 July 2024