Rishi Sunak promised to govern with integrity and professionalism.
Sleaze, scandals and allegations of corruption define this Tory government. Whether it’s the billions given to their friends for Covid contracts, lobbying scandals involving the likes of Owen Paterson or House of Lords seats being offered to Tory donors, standards in public life have been decimated by the Tories.
Rishi Sunak promised to govern with integrity and professionalism, yet he now, once more, finds himself having to respond to allegations of sleaze involving senior members of his party.
‘One rule for them, another for the rest of us’ is the defining ideology of the last 12 years of Tory government. The sheer arrogance of such thinking saw Sunak himself slapped with a police fine over the weekend for not wearing a seatbelt in a moving car while filming a social media video.
Lancashire Police said it had issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of a fixed penalty. This is Sunak’s second fixed penalty notice, after receiving one as chancellor for breaking Covid regulations.
In recent days, it’s also emerged that the former Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has had to pay a penalty to resolve a dispute with HMRC over unpaid taxes. Zahawi says that has paid HMRC “what it was due” after it “disagreed about the exact allocation” of shares in the YouGov polling company he co-founded, an error he noted was “careless” not deliberate.
He has not disclosed the size of the settlement – reported to be an estimated £4.8m including a 30% penalty – or whether he paid a fine.
In a damning revelation, Sky News reports that Zahawi settled his tax dispute while he was chancellor, which Labour’s Anneliese Dodds described as ‘shocking’.
She said: “After a week of Nadhim Zahawi dodging questions, we now know the shocking truth that he was negotiating his tax settlement while in charge of HMRC.
“This whole episode is deeply damaging to public trust, with a chancellor in charge of the nation’s finances asking the public to pay their taxes while apparently having failed to do so himself.
“His position is clearly untenable. Every hour that Rishi Sunak refuses to sack him shows just how weak the prime minister is.”
Sunak now also faces questions over exactly what he knew before appointing Zahawi as Tory party chair.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson and his endless list of scandals continue to cause a headache for the Tory party. The current chairman of the BBC, Richard Sharp, is said to have helped Johnson with his personal finances during the interview process for the role at the corporation, weeks before he was recommended for the job by the then prime minister.
The Sunday Times reported that Sharp was involved in helping to sort out a guarantee on a loan worth up to £800,000 for Johnson in late 2020.
The loan guarantee itself was given by Sam Blyth, a Canadian businessman and distant cousin of Johnson, and Sharp is reported to have helped with the arrangement.
Johnson has denied any wrongdoing and conflict of interest, however the Labour Party has asked the watchdog for public appointments to examine the recruitment process leading to Sharp’s appointment.
‘Integrity, professionalism and accountability’ at every level is what Sunak promised, those pledges lie in tatters once more.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
(Picture credit: Richard Townshend: Creative Commons)
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