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Watch: James Cleverly struggles on Zahawi tax questions

Oh dear, things are not exactly going well for the Tory party this weekend, with the government now facing potential scandals on two separate fronts. Yesterday, the chairman of the Tory party Nadhim Zahawi was forced to concede that HMRC had found that he had made ‘careless and not deliberate’ errors over his tax affairs when being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer last year. Meanwhile the Sunday Times reports today that Richard Sharp, the chairman of the BBC, was involved in procuring an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson, weeks before he was recommended for the role.

So you can imagine that James Cleverly was not exactly jubilant about embarking on the Sunday broadcast round this morning, to defend the government’s record. Still, Cleverly managed to find the one sure-fire way of avoiding the tough questions: by confessing that he didn’t know anything at all. After being grilled by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Cleverly confessed that he had no idea if Nadhim Zahawi was investigated over his tax affairs while Chancellor or when Rishi Sunak knew about the issue with HMRC, saying:

‘I’m not an investigative journalist, and it’s not my functional role to investigate my colleagues’ tax affairs’.

Things went further downhill over on the BBC, when Cleverly tried to suggest that he wasn’t in a position to discuss Zahawi’s tax details, as he’d been too busy shopping on Saturday, telling Laura Kuenssberg that:

‘I spent the whole of last week in the US and in Canada… before having a rest and doing some shopping.’

Watch here:

They say that ignorance is bliss. Mr S isn’t quite sure that Cleverly will agree after those interviews…

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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