It’s a new day and once again the news is dominated by Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs. Rishi Sunak has asked his independent ethics advisor (all politicians need outside advice when it comes to ethics, after all) to launch an investigation into Zahawi after the Tory chairman admitted making a ‘careless and not deliberate’ tax error. That ethics probe doesn’t appear to have stopped the awkward questions, however.
Crime minister Chris Philp appeared on the Today programme this morning; after being grilled about Zahawi’s conduct, he told presenter Mishal Husain: ‘I don’t know precisely what form that carelessness took – neither do you’.
Mr S wonders if Philp might have a point, though not quite in the way he thinks. There is one person in government who knows exactly what happened between Nadhim Zahawi and the taxman, and is perfectly capable of clearing the whole incident up: Zahawi himself.
So far the Tory chairman has released a rather paltry statement explaining that the tax issue concerns founder shares in the polling company YouGov he co-founded, given to his father. But he has not explained yet if he had to pay a penalty to HRMC, nor the size of the total settlement. The Guardian claims that the total settlement owed plus a penalty payment and interest reached around £5 million, a figure Zahawi seems to dispute, with his spokesperson telling the paper: ‘Nadhim Zahawi does not recognise this amount…As he has previously stated, his taxes are properly declared and paid in the UK.’
All of this should be easy enough to clear up. So why won’t Zahawi answer the following questions: How much did he or his family benefit from the sale of shares in YouGov? What did he fail to declare to HMRC? Did he pay a penalty? And what was the total amount owed?
The real question for Rishi Sunak is why is he allowing this story to drag on; it makes the PM look weak, and the Tory party look even more dodgy, with each passing day.