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‘Elections are a Chance to Make Money’: How the Conservative Spivocracy Cashed in

The Conservative election betting scandal is just the tip of the iceberg from a party whose senior figures and donors have treated their time in Government as a ‘gift that keeps on giving’

Rishi Sunak , David Cameron, Liz Truss. Photomontage: PA Images / Alamy

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“Elections are a chance for people to make money”, the Conservative peer and former Minister Ed Vaizey told Times Radio on Thursday, in the wake of news that multiple senior Conservative officials and candidates laid bets on the date of the election, shortly before it was announced by their boss.

“These endless polls… are all being crunched in the hedge funds in the City of London,” Vaizey explained, adding that those with access to “privileged information” were “taking spread bets” on the outcome of the election.

The Prime Minister has since sought to portray the scandal as an aberration. However, the truth is that elections have always been an opportunity for those with cash to burn, to make more of it. 

The most famous example of this came during the 2016 EU referendum, when hedge funds spent huge amounts commissioning private exit polls which showed that Leave had narrowly won the election. 

Under UK law it is illegal to publicise such information while polls remain open. However, among those with early access to it was the former commodity trader, turned anti-EU politician, Nigel Farage. 

Despite reportedly having prior knowledge that Leave had likely won, Farage told journalists after polls closed that he believed Remain had clinched it instead. The comments, which sent the value of the pound soaring, allowed those in the know to make millions from ‘shorting’ its value, prior to Leave’s victory ultimately being confirmed. 

Farage’s comments led to allegations that he too had profited from the result and his own premature ‘concession’ – something he strongly denied.

However, such practices are commonplace within the grey area between politics and big finance, with those in the know able to make far more than the hundreds, or thousands of pounds likely to have been made by those Conservative officials who cashed in on the date of the general election.

In fact the connections between hedge funds, spread betting, and conservative politicians are well established.

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Leading hedge-funders have handed millions of pounds to the Conservative Party over the past ten years, with senior figures from the industry continuing to have close ties to the party.

Rishi Sunak himself is a former hedge funder and has faced multiple questions over the  personal fortune he made as part of a company which bet against British banks during the financial crisis. 

Such gambles are something Sunak has previously admitted to enjoying, telling the BBC last year that he enjoyed taking part in “quite dangerous” sporting spread bets while working for an American hedge fund.

Given this political and financial culture, it is perhaps not surprising that those around the Prime Minister decided that having prior access to the date of the general election was a money-making opportunity that was simply too great to pass up.


The Spivocracy

Despite Sunak’s claim this week to have been furious about the actions of his own staff, it merely confirms a growing sense among voters that this Conservative Government has repeatedly prioritised its own interests over those of the country.

This is not a sense that has emerged overnight. Doing the broadcast rounds to defend his party during this election campaign has been the Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, who first rose to public prominence after it was revealed that he had used multiple fake names in order to run a get-rich-quick scheme, before lying about it for three years.

Alongside him has been the Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister, David Cameron, who also made millions of pounds after leaving office, while secretly lobbying his former colleagues in Government on behalf of an investment firm

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Cameron’s successor Boris Johnson, who has spent this campaign on multiple holidays, while promoting his half a million pound tell-all book about his time in Government, has also cashed in, disregarding post-government corruption rules, in order to meet the Venezuelan president on behalf of another hedge fund.

And while Liz Truss’ time in Government forced millions of mortgage-holders into paying thousands of pounds more on their loans, not everyone suffered due to her policies.

As the Sunday Times later revealed, on the day Truss’ government announced its disastrous ‘mini-budget’, her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng attended a private champagne reception with hedge fund managers who “egged him on to commit” to his ruinous plans.

Kwarteng’s own former hedge manager boss Crispin Odey also reportedly made huge sums on the resulting economic crash, describing his own bets against Government bonds as “the gifts that keep on giving”.

Even the bit-part players in the Conservative Party have cashed in over the past 14 years. Whether it’s the likes of Conservative peer Michelle Mone and her partner, who made millions of pounds in Covid contracts, or the multiple other Conservative linked businesses who cashed in from selling the Government unusable PPE, the sense that this is a party which is all in it for themselves has now become impossible for most voters to miss.

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The election betting scandal will have helped to focus this growing sense among many voters that the party of government has spent their time acting, in the words of former Conservative adviser and commentator Tim Montgomerie like “venal spivs”.

Yet the truth is that this ‘spivocracy’ is not down to a few bad apples, or even to the incompetence and weak leadership of one Prime Minister.

It is in fact part of a far broader political culture that has dominated our country for well over a decade.

The truth is that during a time when the living standards of most citizens have either flatlined, or gone backwards, those who should have been in charge of serving us, have instead had at least one eye locked on serving themselves first.


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