UK PM sacks party chairman as woes mount for Sunak
Updated 00:12, 30-Jan-2023
UK PM sacks party chairman as woes mount for Sunak

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sacked Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi from his government. It follows an investigation into Zahawi's tax affairs that found a serious breach of the ministerial code.

Sunak had ordered an independent adviser to investigate questions over the tax affairs of Zahawi, who was briefly finance minister during a period of political turmoil in Britain last year.

Zahawi has said Britain's tax authorities ruled he had been "careless" with his declarations but hadn't deliberately made an error to pay less tax.



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"Following the completion of the Independent Adviser's investigation – the findings of which he has shared with us both – it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code," Sunak said in a letter to Zahawi published on Sunday.

"As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty's Government."

The independent adviser Laurie Magnus found that Zahawi had been misleading when he said that reports last July over his tax affairs were "clearly smears."

Zahawi did not correct the record until last week, when he said he had reached a settlement with the authorities.

"I consider that this delay in correcting an untrue public statement is inconsistent with the requirement for openness," Magnus said in a letter to Sunak.

He added that Zahawi had shown "insufficient regard" for the requirement "to be honest, open and an exemplary leader through his own behaviour."

"Mr. Zahawi's conduct as a Minister has fallen below the high standards that, as Prime Minister, you rightly expect from those who serve in your government," he said.

Problems mounting

Sunak finds himself under mounting pressure, despite only taking office in October. 

Upon becoming premier, Sunak pledged to lead Britain with "integrity, professionalism and accountability" after a series of scandals derailed Boris Johnson's premiership in July and the regime of successor Liz Truss imploded within weeks after a disastrous mini-budget.

Sunak's deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, is being investigated over bullying allegations involving complaints made by at least 24 civil servants.  

In addition, the fallout from Johnson's chaotic three-year reign continues. The UK's public appointments watchdog is reviewing the way in which Richard Sharp was picked to chair the country's public broadcaster, the BBC, following questions about his role in securing a loan for then-prime minister Johnson just before his selection.

Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, said he had introduced an old friend who wanted to help Johnson to a government official in late 2020, but his involvement went no further.

Both Sharp and Johnson have been facing questions after the Sunday Times reported that Sharp helped arrange a guarantee for a loan of up to 800,000 pounds ($988,240) for Johnson.

Separately, Johnson will be summoned to televised hearings within weeks as he is investigated by the House of Commons privileges committee for lying to MPs about the "partygate" affair.

Opinion polls have consistently shown the Conservatives more than 20 percent behind the opposition Labour Party, although an election remains up to two years away. 

Source(s): Reuters

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