Nadhim Zahawi steps down as Tory MP admits mistakes ‘have been mine’

With the party expected to face heavy losses in the general election, the former chancellor said the time is right for ‘a new, energetic Conservative’ to take over

Archie Mitchell
Thursday 09 May 2024 13:06 BST
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Nadhim Zahawi sacked for 'breach of Ministerial Code'

Nadhim Zahawi has become the latest Conservative MP to announce he will step down at the next election.

With the party expected to face heavy losses in the general election, the former chancellor said the time is right for “a new, energetic Conservative” to take over.

The Stratford-on-Avon MP becomes the 64th Conservative to announce he is standing down at the end of this parliament, with the country expected to go to the polls in October or November. Mr Zahawi, who served as chancellor in 2022, was facing a tough re-election, with polls suggesting he was on course to lose the seat, which has only elected Conservatives since 1950.

Nadhim Zahawi is the 64th Conservative MP to announce he will step down at the election
Nadhim Zahawi is the 64th Conservative MP to announce he will step down at the election (AFP/Getty)

In a statement posted on X/Twitter, Mr Zahawi said: “Every morning as I shave my head in the mirror, I have to pinch myself. How is it that a boy from Baghdad who came to these shores, fleeing persecution and unable to speak a word of English, was able to do as much as I have?”

The MP said he was immensely privileged to have served across government, including as education secretary, chancellor and as the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster – during which time he coordinated the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

But, quoting William Shakespeare, Mr Zahawi said: “As my most famous constituent once wrote: ‘Go to your bosom; knock there and ask your heart what it doth know.’

“I have come to feel that the time is right for a new, energetic Conservative to fight for the honour of representing Stratford-on-Avon and assuming the mantle of MP for Shakespeare. I will, of course, serve my constituents with dedication and determination until then.”

Mr Zahawi was sacked while serving as Tory chair after an ethics inquiry into the handling of his tax affairs found a “serious breach” of the Ministerial Code. It followed an investigation into his financial affairs that was first revealed by The Independent in 2022.

Nadhim Zahawi quoted his most famous constituent, William Shakespeare, saying ‘parting is such sweet sorrow’
Nadhim Zahawi quoted his most famous constituent, William Shakespeare, saying ‘parting is such sweet sorrow’ (PA Archive)

This newspaper disclosed in July that year that HMRC officials were examining the tax affairs of the senior Tory figure after an inquiry was launched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2020.

He later agreed to pay a seven-figure sum to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to settle a tax dispute.

In his resignation letter, Mr Zahawi said: “My mistakes have been mine, and my successes have come from working with, and leading, amazing people.”

The 56-year-old was born in Iraq and came to the UK as a child when his Kurdish family fled Saddam Hussein’s regime, before becoming the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010.

Mr Zahawi made his fortune with online polling company YouGov and was also chief executive of Gulf Keystone Petroleum until 2018.

Other high-profile Conservatives stepping down at the election include former prime minister Theresa May, ex-defence secretary Ben Wallace and former health secretary Matt Hancock, who now sits as an independent.

The Liberal Democrats have said Tory MPs across the so-called blue wall of safe Conservative seats are quitting in their droves to avoid upsets at the general election. After Mr Zahawi’s announcement, a Lib Dem source said: “Conservative MPs across the blue wall are standing down because they're worried about the threat posed by the Liberal Democrats.

"We have taken control of the council in Zahawi's seat so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he is giving up the ghost.

"It is clear Liberal Democrats are best placed to beat the Conservatives in Stratford-on-Avon.”

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