Failure to sack Zahawi shows PM is ‘hopelessly weak’, Starmer says
Rishi Sunak has attempted to distance himself from the furore surrounding Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, with No. 10 unable to say whether the PM was confident no more damaging surprises would emerge.
The prime minister’s press secretary said: “I don’t think any of us can predict what may come up but I think he’s confident now he’s put the right process in place and the independent adviser is looking into it.”
It comes after Keir Starmer today accused Mr Sunak of being “hopelessly weak” for failing to sack Nadhim Zahawi as the two leaders clashed at PMQs over the Tory chairman’s controversial tax settlement with HMRC.
The Labor leader accused Mr. Sunak, who this week ordered his ethics adviser to investigate Mr. Zahawi’s tax affairs, of “overseeing chaos”, saying it was “fairly obvious” that the former chancellor should step aside.
The prime minister rebuffed Mr. Starmer’s questions on the saga, saying it occurred before he was PM. Former chancellor Mr. Zahawi did not appear to be present in the Commons as the two leaders met.
PM disappointed with Zahawi?
No. 10 declined to say whether the prime minister was disappointed with Nadhim Zahawi, if he had not originally revealed the full details of his tax affairs.
Mr. Sunak’s press secretary said: “I am not going to comment on the PM’s emotional state.”
“A lot of what we understand is via media reports, and some of it is quite speculative, that is why it is right that the independent adviser establishes the facts before any further action is taken.”
Emily Atkinson25 January 2023 13:47
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live politics coverage.
We’ll be bringing you updates throughout the day as Nadhim Zahawi faces pressure to resign over a row about his tax arrangement.
Stay tuned for all the latest news and PMQs at noon.
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 09:11
Re-cap: who is Nadhim Zahawi?
An Iraqi refugee who arrived in Britain aged nine with no English rose to No. 11 Downing Street and propped up Boris Johnson’s ailing administration last summer, only to be hit by a tax scandal himself, my colleague Joe Sommerlad reports.
Read the full article here:
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 09:13
Tell us how much you owe the taxman, voters tell Zahawi
Some 64 per cent of people – including 61 per cent of Tory voters – say Mr Zahawi should reveal exactly how much he handed overaccording to the Savanta ComRes survey.
Our political correspondent Adam Forrest reports:
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 09:16
Is Sunak about to dump Zahawi? Tory MPs say PM risks looking ‘indecisive’ over tax row
Just a week ago the PM was defending Mr. Zahawi in the Commons. But as pressure on Mr. Sunak mounts, Downing Street declined to say he was confident Mr. Zahawi had always been honest about his finances.
Kate Devlin, politics editor and Adam Forrest, politics correspondent, report:
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 09:21
Sunak and Starmer to face off at crunch PMQs
The first two PMQs sessions of 2023 have largely followed the same pattern: Starmer attacking Sunak on public sector strikes and the state of the NHS and the PM hitting back by claiming that the Labor leader is opposed to the government’s anti-strike legislation because he is in the pocket of unions.
Many of those disputes remain unresolved and with more walkouts planned in the weeks ahead, there is every chance Sunak could be tackled on industrial action by Starmer once again when the pair appear before MPs in the Commons later for round three.
But today’s exchanges in the chamber will almost certainly take on a different feel after the Labor leader was gifted additional ammunition in the form of a scandal over the tax affairs of Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, which shows absolutely no signs of dying down first thing Wednesday morning.
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 09:24
Whitehall officials were not aware of Zahawi tax dispute – report
Rishi Sunak was not informed about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax dispute when he appointed him to the cabinet because Whitehall officials were not aware of it, it has been claimed.
Mr. Zahawi, the cabinet minister without portfolio, was cleared by Whitehall officials for the Tory chairman role under Mr. Sunak after he became prime minister.
But accordingly The Times, neither he nor Liz Truss – his predecessor – were informed about Mr Zahawi’s dispute with HMRC.
Mr. Zahawi served as Liz Truss’s equalities minister during Ms. Truss’s short stint in No. 10 Downing Street. He briefly served as chancellor in the dying days of Boris Johnson’s government.
One government source suggested that The Times that Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, should have briefed both Mr. Sunak and Ms. Truss about the potential liability of keeping Zahawi in the cabinet.
But another said: “They didn’t know about the fine because HMRC didn’t tell them.”
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 09:56
Zahawi should ‘consider his position’, says Tory peer
The influential Tory peer Lord Hayward said Mr. Zahawi “should be considering whether he stands aside for the period of the inquiry” – warning that the saga could help “flatline” Tory popularity ahead of the local elections, Adam Forrest, our politics correspondent reports.
Lord Hayward, a Tory polling expert, told Sky News: “I think there is a difficulty where you are party chairman because you’re supposed to be out there motivating the campaigners in preparations for key local elections.”
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 10:25
‘Uncomfortable’ PMQs if Zahawi doesn’t quit, says ex-minister
Former Tory minister David Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today program it was “hard to see how this doesn’t ultimately end in [Mr Zahawi’s] resignation”, Adam Forrest, our political correspondent, reports.
He said it would be a “very uncomfortable” PMQs for Mr. Sunak if he was still in post at 12pm.
It is widely expected that Labor leader Keir Starmer will use at least some of his questions during PMQs to tackle Sunak on the issue.
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 10:45
Which Tories are calling on Zahawi to quit?
The prime minister, who has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether Mr. Zahawi broke ministerial rules, is also under pressure to act, having admitted there are “questions that need answering”.
Who has called on Mr. Zahawi to quit? Our political correspondent Adam Forrest reports:
Matt Mathers25 January 2023 11:02