Arrived in October 2022 in power, he had promised the return “to integrity”. Three months later, while the country is in the midst of a crisis with repeated strikes and a faltering economy, Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister, faces the first major scandal within his government.
Conservative Party chairman and minister without portfolio Nadhim Zahawi, whom he named on his arrival at 10 Downing Street, is accused of breaching the cabinet code, while he kept quiet about a dispute with the taxman of several million pounds for which he had to pay a fine.
Co-founder of the YouGov polling institute
In an attempt to put out the fire, Rishi Sunak ordered an investigation on Monday January 23 into his ally’s disputes with the tax authorities. “Integrity and accountability are very important to me and clearly in this case there are questions that deserve answers,” he admitted, refusing for the moment to fire Nadhim Zahawi as the opposition Labor and Liberal Democrats are demanding his head.
Who is Nadhim Zahawi? Born in Baghdad in 1967 to Iraqi Kurdish parents, he arrived in the UK in 1976 after fleeing his country. He launched out first in business, then in politics by joining the Conservative Party. He then won the seat of MP for the constituency of Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of British playwright William Shakespeare.
Appointed Minister of Intergovernmental Relations in the short-lived government (1 month and 9 days) of Liz Truss, he was then appointed President of the Conservative Party and Minister without portfolio in the current government.
Nadhim Zahawi is best known for having been the co-founder of the YouGov polling institute. The fine he had to pay to the tax authorities related to his participation in this same company. According to the BBC, he decided to pay the taxes he owed, plus a penalty, when he very briefly served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Boris Johnson’s second government, from July 5 to September 6, 2022 ( two months and one day). The total amount would be around, according to the Guardian, which cites experts, 5 million pounds sterling (5.6 million euros).
A “careless mistake”
Zahawi’s tax case hit the media in the summer of 2022. On July 6, the day after his appointment as chancellor, The Independent newspaper reported that he was investigated by the National Crime Agency (the UK’s main agency for combating organized crime) and the Revenue Service. Zahawi replies to the newspaper that he has no knowledge of it and that he “paid all his taxes”.
But since the Labor opposition accuses him of having regularized his situation late, when he was finance minister. Under political and media pressure, Nadhim Zahawi, who denies having negotiated anything, recognizes a “careless error”, but still refuses to resign.
Nomination de Richard Sharp
By demanding an investigation from his government ethics officer, Rishi Sunak hoped to calm things down. to appoint him as head of the party?
And as trouble never comes alone, another case comes to light and this time involves Boris Johnson. This is the appointment of Richard Sharp in 2021 as chairman of the influential BBC. Post that this former banker (he worked eight years for JP Morgan and twenty-three years for Goldman Sachs) would have obtained by playing, before his appointment, the matchmaker to help Boris Johnson obtain a loan of no less than… 800,000 pounds sterling!
On the defensive once again, Rishi Sunak asked the government commissioner in charge of public appointments to shed light on the process of recruiting Richard Sharp to identify a possible failure. The latter asked the BBC to investigate his own appointment to determine if there was a potential conflict of interest.
After thirteen years of absolute power, the British Conservative Party appears increasingly undermined by affairs concerning its leaders.