Patrick O’Flynn Patrick O’Flynn

Zahawi’s sacking could be Sunak’s ‘John Major moment’

(Credit: Getty images)

It is a very dangerous time to be a Conservative MP and not just because the party is trailing by 20 points in the opinion polls with a general election looming.

The sacking of Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi after an investigation found he seriously breached the ministerial code means that, soon enough, we will no longer be seeing his gleaming pate and tight suit on the front pages for day after day.

Rishi Sunak can – and no doubt will – claim to have handled the affair with principle and professionalism. The PM will insist that due process was applied, rather than the kind of kangaroo court resorted to by some previous premiers.

But that will not be the end of things as far as the press and our increasingly tabloid-style and sensation-seeking political broadcasters are concerned. They will now have blood in their nostrils and already be casting around for the next high-ranking Conservative to pursue over his (and it normally is a he) financial or personal affairs or any predilection for ‘bullying’ staff via such unthinkable behaviour traits as brusqueness or a tendency to shout.

The justification will be the public interest, especially given that Sunak promised on assuming office to make improving standards in public life a priority of his administration. But a more important factor is that the public are interested, or at least enough of them are to make ministerial headhunting a worthwhile pursuit for journalists and opposition politicians.

Given the horrid prevailing political cocktail of falling living standards and failing public services, enough voters are in a sufficiently scratchy mood to enjoy a series of sacrificial offerings.

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