In my opinion integrity matters, and when it doesn’t, we can lose faith in our democracy. Back in October, moments before he went into Downing Street for the first time as prime minister, Rishi Sunak promised: “this government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.” I think we can safely say there is no evidence of this as recent events and behaviours tell us something very different.
As the Prime Minister has admitted that there are “questions that need answering” over the case and has referred Nadhim Zahawi to his ethics advisor. However, does this go far enough?
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Zahawi was appointed in July 2022 and held the role for nine weeks but stories of his tax row were prominent even back then. The fresh revelations first reported in the Sun on 15 January this year have now engulfed the Tory party and dominated the newspaper headlines for days now. On top of the Prime Minister’s seatbelt fine and the latest allegations surrounding Boris Johnson and the Chairman of the BBC it’s been a gift to the opposition parties.
The Labour Party
Labour Chair Annelise Dodds said:
“In the middle of the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, the public will rightly be astonished that anyone could claim that failing to pay millions of pounds’ worth of tax is a simple matter of ‘carelessness’.”
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner responding to the fact that Zahawi still has Sunak’s confidence said:
“This pathetic attempt to pass the buck is simply not good enough. Nadhim Zahawi was Chancellor of the Exchequer while he hadn’t paid his tax and was negotiating a settlement with HMRC at the time. You don’t need an ethics adviser to tell you that’s unacceptable.“ The prime minister made the decision to appoint Nadhim Zahawi as a government minister and Conservative Party chair.
SNP and Liberal Democrats
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said:
“Rishi Sunak is proving powerless to stop the daily drip-feed of sleaze from the top of government.”
Does it really matter?
Yes absolutely, integrity and honesty matter. They are essential in our own personal and work lives but critical when it comes to government as we rely on it to maintain order and confidence in our democracy. It’s also essential we have a free and vibrant press with freedom to investigate and hold our politicians to account. We can be very grateful to the Independent for reporting on this story since early last year.
In my opinion, this is a watershed moment, as I say integrity matters. So Nadhim Zahawi, I urge you to resign immediately. It may have just been a careless error but the millions of pounds involved sends a very loud message to the tens of millions of taxpayers and the entire nation grappling with a cost of living crisis.
It’s not a good message is it?