Instead of taking full responsibility for the breach of the Ministerial Code, Nadhim Zahawi launched an attack on the British press. Following Prime Minister’s Rishi Sunak investigation of Zahawi’s unpaid tax affairs, Sunak has fired his Conservative Party chairman.

“It is clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code. As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty’s Government,” wrote Sunak in a letter.

Zahawi recently confirmed that he agreed to pay the penalty to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over an unpaid £5m tax bill related to sales of YouGov shares. The issue occurred while he served as the UK Chancellor in charge of taxes under Boris Johnson.

After Sunak sacked him, Nadhim Zahawi is refusing to stand down as an MP but the public pressure grows on Sunak to decide to remove the whip from Zahawi. The prime minister has insisted he acted “pretty decisively” in sacking Nadhim Zahawi as the Conservative Party chairman.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets Minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets Minister Nadhim Zahawi.

“I was able to make a very quick decision that it was no longer appropriate for Nadhim Zahawi to continue in government, and that’s why he’s no longer there. That’s what i’ve done. It relates to things that happened well before I was prime minister, so unfortunately I can’t change what happened in the past. What you can hold me accountable for, is what did you do about it? What I did, as soon as I knew about the situation was appoint somebody independent, looked at it, got the advice, and then acted pretty decisively,” said Sunak.  

Zahawi attacks the press

In a written response to the Prime Minister, Zahawi avoided accountability for violating the Ministerial Code and criticized the media’s reports on the current political climate.

In the letter, Zahawi listed some of his contributions while working in government, such as the COVID vaccine rollout and ensuring that celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s life “went smoothly and that as many people as possible could pay their respects” to the fallen monarch.

Then, Zahawi abruptly attacked the British press claiming he was concerned about the “conduct from some of the fourth estate in recent weeks.”

“In a week when a Member of Parliament was physically assaulted, I fail to see how one headline on this issue ‘The Noose Tightens’ reflects legitimate scrutiny of public officials. I am sorry to my family for the toll this has taken on them,” wrote Zahawi.

Zahawi may have believed that attacking the press would have excused him from having to take ownership for his breach of the ministerial code, as the former chairman did not address his tax affairs at all in the letter.

However, his strategy only proves that Sunak’s decision to fire Zahawi was entirely right. The UK government should not tolerate any attacks on the media and its rightful freedom to report the truth.

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