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Little internal protest among Tories over Zahawi sacking – but Sunak now has even more ground to make up | Politics News


The verdict has been made and the decision has been made. Nadhim Zahawi committed a “very serious violation of the ministerial code” and the prime minister fired the chairman of his party.

Cue a collective sigh of relief from a congressional party annoyed and angered by the tax problems of a multi-millionaire cabinet minister that has dominated the headlines for days.

Even before Sir Laurie Magnus concluded that Mr. Zahawi had “disrespected the general principles of the ministerial code, the specific requirements… to be honest, open and an exemplary leader. through his own conduct”, the MPs decided only in the course of events: that Mr. Zahawi have to go.

Because the spectacle of a cabinet minister and former prime minister, whose fortune was worth £27m without paying taxes at first, when people were struggling to make ends meet, did not pass. pass the sniff test.

Zahawi fired as Tory party chairman – latest politics

But what emerged on Sunday made the situation worse: We do know that Mr Zahawi ended up settling with HMRC, allegedly paying £5m (including fines).

But what we don’t know is how long the “interaction” with HMRC went on without being reported, while Mr Zahawi was serving as a cabinet minister and running for Conservative leadership.

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Interviewed by the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser, he asked the question

Sir Laurie’s investigation found this dispute began in April 2021 and was resolved in August 2022.

There are harsh criticisms from Prime minister ethics advisor on why Mr Zahawi does not consider his April 2021 tax questions a “serious” issue.

He did not disclose the HMRC investigation when he was appointed education secretary on 15 September 2021 or when he was appointed prime minister by Boris Johnson on 5 July 2022.

It was only on 15 July 2022 that the cabinet minister updated his statement of interest, acknowledging his tax affairs were under investigation after receiving a letter from HMRC.

There is also the issue of Mr Zahawi, who, in the Conservative leadership race last July, dismissed reports of his tax affairs as “inaccurate, unfair and unequivocal”. is libel”.

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Zahawi sacking was ‘brutal’

Mr. Laurie took a very dim view of Mr. Zahawi’s failure to correct the record and revealed that he had reached an agreement with HMRC until 21 January.

“I consider the delay in correcting an untrue public statement to be inconsistent with the requirement of openness,” he said.

For those who criticize the government, the whole apology affair will be used to attack the ruling Conservatives as the party of sleaze.

Compare what just happened to Mr Zahawi on his tax issues with the Prime Minister’s pledge to lead a government with “integrity, professionalism and accountability”.

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His opponents will be able to argue that in addition to cleaning up the government, the prime minister has brought people to his top team who are opposed to those values, such as Gavin Williamson, being forced to step down. Because of the bullying allegations, Mr Zahawi was fired or deputy prime minister Dominic Raab, who is being investigated over eight allegations of bullying.

Mr Sunak’s allies argue that all the Prime Minister can do is keep his word, hold his government accountable and win public confidence in how he handled what was thrown at him. me.

“This is why the Prime Minister wants a proper process where the facts are set,” an ally told me on Sunday.

“The timeline is now in the public domain for all to see. It gives Nadhim Zahawi an opportunity to explain himself and it also identifies what happened when.”

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PM took ‘decisive action’ on Zahawi, says Gove

Cleaning up other people’s messes, Mr. Sunak will hope that what the public sees is that he is doing the right thing.

But these are not so obvious.

The prime minister may not know about Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs but what, if anything, did he know about the allegations surrounding Mr Williamson or Mr Raab’s bullying before he included them in his cabinet?

Read more:
What did Nadhim Zahawi do?
Can the curse of the cupboard spark Sunak’s fate?

What the new Conservative administration can at least claim is that Mr Sunak is taking a very different approach to that of Boris Johnson, who has seen two independent ethics advisers leave the government. government in less than two years.

Lord Geidt abruptly resigned in June 2022 after admitting that the Prime Minister may have broken a ministerial rule on party gates. His predecessor, Alex Allen, stepped down in 2020 after Mr Johnson backed former home secretary Priti Patel, despite Mr Allen’s report that she had breached ministerial code because of allegations of forced labor. bullying civil servants.

Mr Sunak, in appointing an independent ethics adviser and then following his advice, is trying to prove that Mr Johnson’s and his own activities are chalk and cheese.

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What’s going on with Zahawi’s taxes?

For Mr Zahawi it was – as one minister told me – “the absolutely right decision”, with little internal opposition (I was told WhatsApp groups were silent) from a party that wanted to stamp out turn off this disastrous incident. .

Read more:
Who is Nadhim Zahawi? The politician was fired because of his tax problem
From Zahawi and Raab to seat belt failure – scandals in the Prime Minister’s first months

On Monday, the prime minister will outline his urgent care plan, trying to show the public that he is focused on their priorities.

But it is also true that this Prime Minister’s first 100 days – which will be marked this Thursday – are more associated with scandals than with good governance.

Plenty of easy lines of attack for Labor, and for the Prime Minister even more opportunities to make up for it.

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