Nadhim Zahawi is on the brink as rivals ‘audition’ for his job as Tory Chairman
Nadhim Zahawi is on the brink as rivals ‘audition’ for his job as Tory Chairman in Cabinet away day at Chequers amid claims Rishi Sunak will decide whether to sack him over his tax affairs within days
- Three Cabinet Ministers appeared to be ‘auditioning’ for Nadhim Zahawi’s job
- Grant Shapps, Penny Mordant and Andrew Mitchell have set out their credentials
- It comes as Rishi Sunak rumoured to soon decide whether to sack Mr Zahawi
Cabinet members have been accused of openly jostling for Nadhim Zahawi’s job as Tory Chairman amid claims that Rishi Sunak will decide within days whether to sack him over his controversial tax affairs.
The Mail on Sunday was told that three Cabinet Ministers appeared to be ‘auditioning’ for the role at last week’s Cabinet away-day at Chequers.
The claims – disputed by allies of the Ministers – come as the report that will decide the Tory Chairman’s fate is expected to be presented to the Prime Minister imminently.
Cabinet members have been accused of openly jostling for Nadhim Zahawi’s job as Tory Chairman
Sources said Sir Laurie Magnus, the PM’s ethics adviser, was poised to deliver his report into whether Mr Zahawi broke the ministerial code over settling a reportedly multi- million-pound tax dispute when he was Chancellor last year.
The report is expected to focus on whether Mr Zahawi should have told Mr Sunak about the settlement – said to be worth £4.8million including a 30 per cent penalty – before he was re-appointed to the Cabinet later last year.
No10 denied reports yesterday that Mr Sunak was warned in October when drawing up his Cabinet about Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs. But despite the Tory Chairman’s insistence that he had done ‘the right thing’ over the tax settlement, party insiders predict that the Chairman will almost certainly be replaced.
At last week’s Cabinet away-day at the PM’s country retreat sources said Penny Mordaunt, Andrew Mitchell and Grant Shapps appeared to be openly setting out their credentials to succeed Mr Zahawi.
One said: ‘They spoke as if they were already chairman – like an audition for the job.’
The source said that in a discussion about the party’s future tactics and Labour’s poll lead, Commons Leader Ms Mordaunt appeared to risk a dig at Mr Sunak, saying: ‘We need to be less managerial.’ Development Minister Andrew Mitchell was said to have hinted at his credentials by reminding colleagues of his long experience since being elected in 1987.
No10 denied reports yesterday that Mr Sunak was warned in October when drawing up his Cabinet about Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs
Penny Mordaunt (pictured) is said to be one of three ministers vying for Mr Zahawi’s job
Finally, Business Secretary Grant Shapps – a former Tory co-chairman – spoke of how David Cameron had overcome big Labour poll leads before 2015 to lead the party to victory in the election that year.
Last night, Ms Mordaunt said ‘many Cabinet members made contributions’ on how they would deliver ‘the public’s priorities’, adding: ‘It was a productive and positive day.’
Allies of Mr Shapps, who was co-chairman between 2005 and 2010, said he would never accept the post again, adding: ‘Once was enough!’ Friends of Mr Mitchell also denied he coveted Mr Zahawi’s job, saying people knew his ‘great passion’ was for the international development brief he had now.
The row over Mr Zahawi is understood to centre on a shareholding in YouGov, the polling firm he co-founded in 2000 before he became an MP.
At last week’s Cabinet away-day at the PM’s country retreat sources said Grant Shapps (pictured) Penny Mordaunt and Andrew Mitchell appeared to be openly setting out their credentials to succeed Mr Zahawi
Andrew Mitchell (pictured) has been at the PM’s country retreat to make his case for a new role
He has not confirmed the amount repaid or any penalty but he has insisted that HMRC had concluded he had made a ‘careless and not deliberate’ error. But last week HMRC boss Jim Harra told MPs there were ‘no penalties for innocent errors’ in tax affairs. The Observer reported last night that Mr Sunak was informally warned in October when he appointed Mr Zahawi that his tax affairs could damage the Government. But No10 said: ‘These claims are not true. The PM was not informed of these details, informally or otherwise.’
Friends of Mr Zahawi suggested he paid more tax than necessary, having declined his accountant’s advice to challenge HMRC’s initial demand.
Last week he said that he had chosen to ‘pay what they said was due, which was the right thing to do’.