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OPINION - The Standard View: Nadhim Zahawi’s tax troubles are an unwelcome distraction for Rishi Sunak

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

The former chancellor and current Tory party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi, is facing mounting pressure following revelations that he recently agreed a settlement with HM Revenue & Customs — reported to be an estimated £4.8 million, including a 30 per cent penalty.

But we are still some way from full transparency. Zahawi has thus far declined to confirm he paid such a fine, with his desire to “address some of the confusion about my finances” achieving little of the sort. Extraordinarily, the statement appears to confirm that he was chancellor at the time that HMRC — the department over which he had responsibility — was investigating his personal tax affairs.

Meanwhile, Labour has called for an investigation into claims that BBC chairman Richard Sharp helped to secure an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson — weeks before the then-prime minister recommended him for the role.

Neither story directly implicates Rishi Sunak, but the Prime Minister will know they are a danger to him and his Government. In his first speech in Downing Street as leader, Sunak promised that his administration would have “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”. He will be forced today and, if it gets that far, throughout Prime Minister’s Questions to defend or explain away the activities of high-profile colleagues.

Sunak may now be in the unusual position of preferring to discuss his most recent fixed-penalty notice for failing to wear a seatbelt.

Ambulances in crisis

The ever-present issue of industrial action has not gone away. The chief executive of the London Ambulance Service has issued a plea to help “save the life of a Londoner” by only calling 999 in a “life or limb” emergency during today’s paramedics’ strike.

Daniel Elkeles warned that anyone without a life-threatening condition was “unlikely to get an ambulance” in the 12-hour walkout. This is the third time in five weeks that ambulance staff have left their post in a dispute about pay and staffing, and comes ahead of what is set to be the NHS’s biggest ever strike on February 6.

At a time of year when icy slips are an ever-present danger and flu is in circulation, it is a reminder of the worries facing Londoners and the enormous challenges the Government must resolve.

Jewish style rules

Stylish Londoners have been asked to look through their wardrobes for garments by Jewish designers as part of a new exhibition celebrating some of the people who have dressed everyone from Bowie to Bond.

The display, at the Museum of London Docklands, will show how Jewish Londoners took the fashion world by storm — while recreating a swinging Sixties Carnaby Street boutique.

Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Style opens in October and will run until April next year. Put on your best and get down there.