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The tax affairs of Nadhim Zahawi raise important questions about propriety

Editorial: Zahawi is chair of the Conservative Party and thus one of the faces of the party as it approaches the general election

Thursday 19 January 2023 21:30 GMT
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Zahawi has indeed paid his taxes but not necessarily in the way most other people do
Zahawi has indeed paid his taxes but not necessarily in the way most other people do (EPA)

Rishi Sunak was selected by his MPs to be prime minister partly as a reaction against the cavalier ways of Boris Johnson. In his first words as premier in Downing Street, Mr Sunak declared: “This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level. Trust is earned.”

Indeed it is, but Mr Sunak’s lofty promises have come to haunt him time and again in his so far brief tenancy of No 10, most recently when he inexplicably refused to talk about whether he used the NHS. Mr Sunak has since been a little more forthcoming, and the issue has died down. The tax affairs of Nadhim Zahawi also raise important questions about propriety, and they are not dying down. Mr Zahawi is chairman of the Conservative Party and, thus, one of the faces of the party as it approaches the general election – though a face with a few metaphorical blemishes at the moment. More to the point, he is a former chancellor of the Exchequer, and thus presumably in charge of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs around the time when his own tax arrangements were under scrutiny.

We cannot say for sure, because all Mr Zahawi will say is that he pays his taxes, while Downing Street will only add that the prime minister is happy to take him “at his word”. On the BBC, Michael Gove, at his most sophistic, drew a distinction between people who don’t pay their taxes – a story – and those who do pay their taxes – not a story. But people who end up in a dispute with HMRC over millions of pounds, and who are ministers of the crown paid for by the taxpayer? Mr Gove, a former journalist, should concede that that is indeed a bit newsworthy. Embarrassing to those in power, yes, but such is journalism.

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