Sam Leith Sam Leith

The curious carefulness of Nadhim Zahawi’s ‘carelessness’  

(Credit: Getty images)

The cliché is that it’s scandals about sex that tend to do for Tories, and scandals about money that do for their counterparts on the opposite benches. To give credit to the current generation of Tories, though, the last decade or so has seen, in this department, a feat of triangulation quite undreamed of by the likes of David Cameron or even Tony Blair.

The Conservatives have retained a creditably strong showing in the extra-marital nookie and unwanted sexual advances stakes; but my goodness, they haven’t half upped their game in financial sleaze. 

Using ‘I was simply careless’ as your explanation for why you accidentally seem to have not paid several million pounds in tax won’t really cut it

All credit to Boris Johnson for captaining the team. The former prime minister’s arrangements with a series of well-connected sugar daddies continue to provide the fan service of a prestige Blu-Ray reissue of a classic film: Easter eggs, behind-the-scenes footage, making-of, blooper reel etc.

The latest ‘deleted scene’, lovingly restored for the retrospective Director’s Cut, is the one where, just weeks after helping secure a guarantee on an £800,000 personal loan for the PM, moneybags Richard Sharp gets the prime-ministerial endorsement to become Chairman of the BBC. No doubt he was the best candidate for the job, but it does look a bit absent-minded that neither man remembered to mention this apparent conflict of interest at the time.

But the current star of the show is Nadhim Zahawi. Admittedly, he was only Chancellor of the Exchequer for about fifteen minutes, during that magical few weeks last year when almost everyone got a turn at holding a Great Office of State, but Chancellor he was. And when you’re the man in charge of the entire nation’s tax system, the main quality you’re expected to demonstrate is – leaving aside for the moment such bagatelles as honesty and integrity — an understanding of, well, the tax system.

For most of us, no question, it’s a bit of a mystery.

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