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Nadhim Zahawi's Position Hangs In The Balance, Michael Gove At Northern Conference, Partygate Probe Calls Witnesses

Tory party chair Nadhim Zahawi pictured in January 2023 (Alamy)

4 min read

A Conservative peer has joined the chorus of voices questioning Nadhim Zahawi's future as party chair, as he continues to face questions over his tax affairs.

Lord Hayward told Sky News that he thinks Zahawi “should be considering whether he stands aside for the period of the inquiry" while Labour suggested Zahawi should “come clean” about his arrangements.

On Saturday Zahawi, the Conservative Party chair, admitted he had reached a settlement with HMRC after making an error related to his previous directorship of polling firm, YouGov.

On Monday, Rishi Sunak ordered an investigation into the incident which will be led by Sir Laurie Magnus, who was appointed as the Prime Minister's Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests in December.

Lord Hayward suggested that Zahawi's position is difficult given he is party chair and attention will soon begin to turn to May’s local elections. 

Lord Hayward added: “If you were another cabinet minister, it may be somewhat easier to continue, but I think that is the problem for him and he may have to review his position, depending on the timescales.”

Speaking on Times Radio this morning, shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said there is “absolutely no reason” why Zahawi cannot answer questions about his taxes. 

She said: "I think it is deeply frustrating for the public, deeply frustrating for those people who pursued questions about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs and were threatened with legal action, deeply frustrating for all of us in the political system that the government has once again tried to kick this into the long grass with an investigation rather than Nadhim Zahawi, who is in a very prominent position in British politics, just coming clean about what happened when he was chancellor."

Chancellor could look at handing mayors in England more powers

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is looking to give mayors in England more control over their finances, the Financial Times has reported today. 

Last week, the government faced criticism, including from Conservative mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, over their distribution of levelling up fund cash. 

Street declared that “Whitehall’s bidding and begging bowl culture is broken” and said that the “sooner” powers can decentralise and “move to proper fiscal devolution the better”. 

The FT has now suggested that Hunt and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove are looking at ways to do that, and will start with the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, where Labour’s Andy Burnham is mayor. 

Gove is due to address business and political leaders at the Conference of the North in Manchester later today. 

Ahead of the event, northern leaders have called for levelling up to be “hard-wired” into law to “unlock the potential of the north”. 

Committee investigating Partygate asks witnesses for more evidence in writing

The Privileges Committee has been contacting witnesses to ask them to submit evidence in writing over partygate, it has been reported. 

The committee is seeking to establish whether former prime minister Boris Johnson misled Parliament over the events held in Downing Street over the coronavirus lockdowns. 

It was reported earlier this week that hearings are set to begin in March. ITV has now said that witnesses are being asked to submit written evidence. 

A statement given to ITV read: “The Committee has sent letters to individuals who may have knowledge relevant to the present inquiry regarding Boris Johnson MP, requiring them to provide evidence in writing. The Committee requires the written evidence to be submitted by Tuesday 7th February. All written evidence submissions must be accompanied by a statement of truth. The Committee may have further requests to make for additional information.”


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