Nadhim Zahawi Has Given Rishi Sunak More Than Enough Reasons To Sack Him

Former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi (centre) leaving the Conservative Party head office in Westminster, central London. The embattled Tory party chairman has been under pressure since it was reported that he paid HMRC a seven-figure sum to end a dispute, with Labour calling for him to be sacked. Picture date: Monday January 23, 2023. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)
Former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi (centre) leaving the Conservative Party head office in Westminster, central London. The embattled Tory party chairman has been under pressure since it was reported that he paid HMRC a seven-figure sum to end a dispute, with Labour calling for him to be sacked. Picture date: Monday January 23, 2023. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)

Former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi (centre) leaving the Conservative Party head office in Westminster, central London. The embattled Tory party chairman has been under pressure since it was reported that he paid HMRC a seven-figure sum to end a dispute, with Labour calling for him to be sacked. Picture date: Monday January 23, 2023. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)

In one sense, Nadhim Zahawi has done Rishi Sunak a huge favour by becoming embroiled in a tax scandal.

Ever since he entered Downing Street nearly three months ago, Labour have tried to label him as “weak” - a lightweight politician unable to take the tough decisions.

But the revelation that Tory chairman Zahawi was embroiled in a dispute with HMRC while he was chancellor has presented the PM with an opportunity to show a bit of muscle.

We have now had it confirmed that while he was in the Treasury, Zahawi agreed to pay millions of pounds in back taxes, as well as a substantial penalty.

That in itself may well have been enough for Sunak to wield the axe.

But No10 also confirmed today that Zahawi had failed to present the PM with a full account of the story before Sunak stood up in the Commons and told MPs that his colleague had “addressed the matter in full”.

Added together, those transgressions could easily have led to the prime minister ending Zahawi’s time as Conservative chairman as well as removing him from his role as minister without portfolio.

Instead, Sunak decided to refer the matter to his ethics adviser.

“Integrity and accountability is really important to me and clearly in this case there are questions that need answering,” he said.

“That’s why I’ve asked our independent adviser to get to the bottom of everything, to investigate the matter fully and establish all the facts and provide advice to me on Nadhim Zahawi’s compliance with the ministerial code.

“I’m pleased that Nadhim Zahawi has agreed with that approach and has agreed to fully co-operate with that investigation.”

When the alternative was being booted out of government entirely, it’s hardly surprising that Zahawi backed the PM’s decision.

But it is the verdict of ordinary voters that truly matters, and the PM’s actions will do nothing to dispel the notion that when confronted with a dilemma, Sunak is inclined to take the easy option rather than the difficult one.

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