Cabinet Minister Refuses To Say If He's Fed Up 'Of Having To Constantly Defend PM'

Claims of islamophobia and blackmail, along with the partygate inquiry, have hit No.10 in recent weeks.
Nadhim Zahawi did not answer Sally Nugent's question about having to defend No.10 constantly
Nadhim Zahawi did not answer Sally Nugent's question about having to defend No.10 constantly
BBC Breakfast

Nadhim Zahawi would not be drawn on whether he is “fed up” of having to defend the current Conservative government on Monday.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the education secretary was defending No.10′s response to Tory MP Nusrat Ghani’s allegations of islamophobia, while also being questioned on civil servant Sue Gray’s partygate inquiry and allegations of blackmail from Tory whips.

Presenter Sally Nugent asked: “Mr Zahawi, I am just curious – you are education secretary at a time of huge change in terms of children, whether they’re going to wear masks in classrooms. Your job is to deal with that.”

Pointing out that his interviews often consist of responding to the latest claims about the government – rather than his portfolio – she continued: “[So] are you a little bit fed up of having to constantly defend your party and your prime minister?”

Zahawi replied by talking about his time as the vaccines minister under Johnson, and how the prime minister backed his call for 60 million vaccine doses from Pfizer.

“On the big calls, this prime minister has got it right,” he said.

“Right, you’re not really answering my question though are you?” Nugent said.

“What I’m saying to you is, if your viewers look at the big decisions – to keep the economy open, the most open economy in Europe, to make sure that the protection for jobs is in place, 400 billion going into that, and on vaccine deployment, this prime minister’s got it right.”

Referring to Boris Johnson’s inconsistencies around whether or not No.10 held various parties, and his subsequent apology to parliament, Zahawi noted: “He’s human and we all make mistakes. He made a mistake, he came and apologised to parliament.”

He then referred back to top civil servant Sue Gray’s report into partygate which is expected to arrive this week.

Nugent cut across the cabinet minister and said: “I’m going to move you on there Mr Zahawi, because we’re not going to get that answer, are we, about whether you’re fed up or not.”

Zahawi continued to defend No.10 throughout his morning media round, telling Sky News’ Kay Burley that he had personally “never experienced” the intimidation tactics allegedly employed by government whips.

Burley also pressed Zahawi about how seriously the prime minister really takes the islamophobia allegations, having once written an article comparing Muslim women to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.

The education secretary replied: ”This is also the prime minister who promoted Nadhim Zahawi to secretary of state for education, Sajid Javid to health secretary, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, Kwasi Kwarteng...”

“That doesn’t negate using that sort of language”, Burley said.

Zahawi replied: “I’m not saying anything other than a prime minister who, in my view, doesn’t look at your background your religion or anything else.

“He looks at your ability, if you are capable of doing a job, and then absolutely makes that decision.”


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