‘Do the right thing’: Zahawi letter urging Johnson to resign resurfaces as Tory chair clings on

Nadhim Zahawi’s letter to Boris Johnson calling on him to “do the right thing” and resign has resurfaced as he fights for his political life following a damaging set of revelations about his tax arrangements.

Mr Zahawi, Stratford-on-Avon MP and Tory chairman, called on the former prime minister to quit over his handling of the Chris Pincher affair and a number of other scandals.

“Prime minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country. You must do the right thing and go now,” Mr Zahawi told the former PM - just two days after agreeing to become his chancellor.

The letter resurfaced on Twitter as Mr Zahawi faced calls to resign over a multimillion pound settlement with HMRC in unpaid tax, relating to shares in YouGov, the polling company he co-founded and Balshore Investments, an offshore trust registered in Gibraltar and linked to his family.

Nadhim Zahawi has faced calls to quit over his tax affairs (PA)
Nadhim Zahawi has faced calls to quit over his tax affairs (PA)

Mr Zahawi’s payment to the taxman, reported to be in the region of £5mn, included a penalty, although he is yet to confirm exactly how much he was forced to hand over. He initially said HMRC had accepted the issue was “careless not deliberate”.

But on Thursday James Harra, the HMRC chief executive, questioned Mr Zahawi’s interpretation of his correspondence with the tax authority. Appearing before a cross-party select committee, Mr Harra said the former chancellor had not made an “innocent error”.

“There are no penalties for innocent errors in your tax affairs,” Mr Harra told the committee. “If you take reasonable care but nevertheless make a mistake, whilst you will be liable for the tax and for interest … you would not be liable for a penalty.

“But if your error was as a result of carelessness then legislation says a penalty can apply in those circumstances,” he added, stressing that he was not talking about Mr Zahawi’s specific case.

Jake Berry, Mr Zahawi’s predecessor as party chair, became the latest high-profile Tory to call for his colleague to quit. Mr Berry said Mr Zahawi should “step aside” while an investigation is carried out by Downing Street’s independent ethics adviser.

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, said he would wait until that probe has been completed before taking any action. Mr Zahawi previously said he would not resign.

Read Nadhim Zahawi’s letter in full below:

“My number one priority has and always will be this great country. When asked to become chancellor, I did it out of loyalty. Not to a man, but loyalty to this country and all it has given me.

“The challenges Britain faces, be it inflation or Putin’s war in Ukraine, will not pause for anything, and it is vital that the major offices of state continue to function through a national crisis. If people have thought poorly of me for that decision, it is criticism I am willing to shoulder.

“Yesterday, I made clear to the Prime Minister alongside my colleagues in No 10 that there was only one direction where this was going, and that he should leave with dignity. Out of respect, and the hopes that he would listen to an old friend of 30 years, I kept this counsel private.

“I am heartbroken that he hasn’t listened and that he is now undermining the incredible achievements of this government at this late hour. No one will forget getting Brexit done, keeping a dangerous antisemite out of No 10, our handling of covid and our support for Ukraine in its hour of need.

“But the country deserves a government that is not only stable, but which acts with integrity.

“Prime Minister, you know in your heart what the right thing to do is, and go now.”