Labour to target embattled Sunak over ‘dirty dozen’ Tory candidates

Labour are set to launch a social media campaign aimed at questioning Rishi Sunak’s judgement by ramping up pressure for him to suspend 12 candidates caught up in different controversies including the betting scandal.

The new campaign will feature an unnamed cabinet minister who allegedly put a bet on the election date, and 11 named Tory candidates involved in a range of issues highlighted in the campaign.

On Saturday night it emerged that the Tory chief data officer, Nick Mason, was also being investigated for alleged betting, according to the PA news agency. He’s taken a leave of absence.

With Labour more than 20 points ahead in most polls currently, Labour want to go for the jugular over Mr Sunak’s decision not to suspend candidates from his party.

Labour are targeting Rishi Sunak over controversies surrounding these 12 candidates (Labour Party)
Labour are targeting Rishi Sunak over controversies surrounding these 12 candidates (Labour Party)

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth described the prime minister as “weak” for not being able to take a firm stance. The other 11 so-called “dirty dozen” include:

Craig Williams, Mr Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary standing in Montgomeryshire, and Laura Saunders, who has worked for the Tories since 2015, married to director of campaigning Tony Lee, and standing in Bristol North West, who are both being investigated by the Gambling Commission for betting on the election date shortly before it was called.

Ms Saunders has not responded, but Mr Williams said: “I clearly made a huge error of judgement that’s for sure and I apologise.”

Mr Sunak said he was “extremely angry” about the scandal but insisted he cannot suspend people while the investigation is underway warning those found guilty will be expelled from the Tories.

Marco Longhi, standing in Dudley, is accused of stoking ethnic divisions with a letter addressed to “voters of the British Pakistani/ Kashmiri community” asking who they thought would speak up for Kashmir, him or Labour rival Sonia Kumar, with her common Indian surname in bold, underlined, capital letters.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure in the closing stages of the campaign (AP)
Rishi Sunak is under pressure in the closing stages of the campaign (AP)

Mr Longhi denied stoking ethnic tensions, saying: “I don’t know what her ethnicity or religious background is. I am not trying to stoke division. I will always stand up for abuses of human rights wherever they take place.”

Stephen James, Dover and Deal, is accused of using AI to produce an antisemitic cartoon depicting men with hooked noses at the white cliffs of Dover carrying bags of “false hopes”, then using it in a now-deleted social media post attacking so-called “carpetbaggers” standing in the seat.

Mr James has “unequivocally apologised” and said that the image had been created from famous historic cartoons by Thomas Nast and Gerald Scarfe.

He said: “As someone who has written for The Times of Israel on antisemitism, I am acutely aware of the importance of vigilance against such instances. AI has safeguards to prevent the creation of offensive images, but on this occasion, it fell short and I shall be extra vigilant going forward. I apologise wholeheartedly for any offence caused by this image.”

Rose Hulse (centre) is one of the candidates being scrutinised (@BSGMatters/X)
Rose Hulse (centre) is one of the candidates being scrutinised (@BSGMatters/X)

Rose Hulse, Bristol North East, standing against Jewish Labour candidate Damien Egan, liked posts on social media referring to Mr Egan as a “fiend of Israel”, and another that accused Labour leader Keir Starmer of “tap dancing” to the idea that “AntiSemitismIsAllThatMatters”.

Ms Hulse told The Independent: “The tweet referenced was clicked in error. As soon as I realised, I immediately deselected the tweet. I apologise for any offence caused.”

Darren Millar, Clwyd North, was filmed bowing before an alleged Islamophobic hate preacher while he delivered a sermon at the launch of a bible centre in Wales, and has been revealed to have links with another pastor accused of homophobia.

Mr Millar told the BBC he did not endorse the views of the pastors adding: “No one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or religious beliefs.”

Lee Roberts, Putney, described London mayor Sadiq Khan as a “snivelling little drip” who had done more to damage the capital “than the Luftwaffe”.

After the recording came to light, Mr Roberts said: “I would like to apologise for my comments. They were not intended to give any offence.”

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth says Sunak is “weak” (Victoria Jones/PA)
Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth says Sunak is “weak” (Victoria Jones/PA)

Oliver Johnstone, Stockport, has joked about drugging women with the date rape drug Rohypnol in order to have sex.

Mr Johnstone said: “These comments were made a number of years ago and I wholeheartedly apologise for them.”

Alex Deane, Finchley and Golders Green, defended Boris Johnson against a groping allegation by quoting the phrase: “How do I know my advances are unwanted until I’ve made them.”

Mr Deane has pointed out that he was quoting the late Tory MP Alan Clarke from his diaries and his full quote was about the presumption of innocence in British law when his fellow guest on Sky News at the time had said she believed Johnson to be guilty.

Will Goodhand, West Bromwich, was filmed 19 years ago in a dating show boasting about his massage technique, and asking a retail assistant her bra size.

Mr Goodhand said: “This was a dating show of its time. It’s not something that I would do or take part in now.”

Ashley Fox, Bridgwater, is accused of lying to MPs about his political ambitions when they vetted his candidacy to head up the Independent Monitoring Authority. He told the justice select committee he would not run for political office if appointed.

Fox said: “I have now stepped down from the IMA. I am very proud to have been selected as the Conservative candidate for Bridgwater and am looking forward to the election on 4 July.”

Commenting for Labour, Mr Ashworth said: “While Labour took immediate action this week to suspend the one candidate for our party against whom serious allegations have been made, Rishi Sunak has refused to take any action against the ‘dirty dozen’ of Tory candidates, who stand accused of acts ranging from blatant corruption to dog-whistle racism.

“This is not just about Rishi Sunak’s weak leadership, it is about his basic lack of backbone and principle. If any Labour candidate had done any of the things these 12 Tories have been accused of, Keir Starmer would have had them out the door before their feet could touch the ground.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “The Conservative Party has spoken to these individuals, and reminded them of the Party’s code of conduct and standards expected of candidates, including on social media.”