Katy Balls Katy Balls

How much trouble is Sunak in?

Photo by Owen Humphreys - WPA Pool/Getty Images

This week Rishi Sunak will meet with his Cabinet at Chequers as he tries to focus minds in his government and party towards the next election. However, while the Prime Minister wants to focus on his five priorities – half inflation, reduce debt, grow the economy, cut waiting lists and stop the boats – a Tory sleaze row threatens to overshadow his best efforts.

Sunak is fighting fire on multiple fronts. First, his party chairman Nadhim Zahawi has had to issue a statement on his tax affairs in which he says an error that has reportedly resulted in him paying millions belatedly was ‘careless and not deliberate’. This has already led to calls from the opposition for Zahawi to go. While Zahawi isn’t exactly a key Sunak ally – he backed Truss over the summer and then Johnson in the second contest before changing tack – to lose him would create another party management problem. Having Zahawi in government sends a signal that Johnson backers have a place in the Sunak government.

Second, there are questions being asked about the position of BBC chairman Richard Sharp. The Sunday Times reports that Sharp was involved in arranging a guarantor on a loan of up to £800,000 for the then prime minister Boris Johnson. While Johnson’s spokesman says the politician did not received any financial advice from Sharp, the intervention came just weeks before the then prime minister recommended him for the role. The report has led to calls from Labour for a parliamentary investigation.

So, where does this all lead for Sunak? Ultimately both issues stem back to Johnson’s time as prime minister.

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