How Tory Sleaze Came Back To Haunt Rishi Sunak Despite His Lofty Rhetoric

The prime minister promised "integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level" of his government.
Rishi Sunak speaks during a Q&A session at The Platform in Morecambe - the day he was fined for not wearing a seatbelt.
Rishi Sunak speaks during a Q&A session at The Platform in Morecambe - the day he was fined for not wearing a seatbelt.
Owen Humphreys via PA Wire/PA Images

On Rishi Sunak’s first day as prime minister he promised the country that he would lead a government of “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”.

After the scandal-ridden premiership of Boris Johnson and the chaos of the Liz Truss administration, the new PM was determined to wipe the slate clean.

But by any measure, he has failed to live up to his lofty rhetoric.

HuffPost UK looks at how Tory sleaze has ended up engulfing Sunak barely three months into the job.

Gavin Williamson quits

Sunak had only been PM for a fortnight when he lost key ally Gavin Williamson from the cabinet over bullying allegations.

He had initially tried to stand by the man who helped him to secure the keys to Number 10, despite his deep unpopularity.

But as the allegations mounted, Williamson was left with little option but to quit - raising serious questions about Sunak’s judgment in giving him a job in the first place.

Raab under pressure

Dominic Raab was another man given a senior position in Sunak’s government in recognition of the part he played in helping him become PM.

The Esher and Walton MP was made deputy prime minister for the second time, having performed the same role under Boris Johnson.

But he had barely got his feet under the desk again when he also faced allegations of bullying civil servants while secretary of state at the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Jusitice and the now-defunct Brexit department.

In all, Raab is facing eight complaints, which are being probed by an independent investigator.

Zahawi’s Tax Problems

Sunak is this morning facing calls to sack Nadhim Zahawi as Tory party chairman after it emerged he struck a deal with HMRC to pay millions of pounds in outstanding tax - plus a penalty - while he was chancellor.

The controversy relates to the sale of YouGov, the highly-successful polling company that Zahawi co-founded before he became an MP.

According to the Sun on Sunday, the Cabinet minister’s family trust, Balshore Investments, held a stake in YouGov worth more than £20million before it was sold in 2018.

In a statement at the weekend, Zahawi said HMRC agreed that his mistake was “careless and not deliberate”, but that has not stopped opposition parties demanding that Sunak shows him the door.

With local elections just weeks away, can the PM afford to have a wealthy party chairman who is dogged by a tax scandal? Or will he decide to stand by his beleaguered colleague?

The Boris problem

He may no longer be prime minister, but Boris Johnson is still causing trouble for his party and, by extension, Rishi Sunak.

It emerged yesterday that Johnson recommended Richard Sharp become chairman of the BBC after he had helped the former PM secure a credit facility of up to ÂŁ800,000 from a Canadian cousin.

All parties concerned insist that there was no conflict of interest - but the story is clearly sub-optimal for Sunak in his attempts to convince voters that the Tories are whiter than white.

Sunak fails to belt up

If all that wasn’t bad enough, Sunak’s own head boy image took another bash last week when he was fined by Lancashire Police for not wearing a seatbelt in the back of his ministerial car.

Even more embarrassingly for the PM, it was the second such fine he had received in less than a year, having been slapped with a fixed penalty notice for breaking lockdown rules.

It may seem like a minor mistake, but it feeds into the idea that he is leading a government which believes that rules are for other people.

And once that impression is lodged in voters’ minds, it is very difficult to shake off.


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