BELEAGURED MP Nadhim Zahawi has finally broken his silence and spoken of his commitment to the people of Stratford.
Mr Zahawi spoke to the BBC on Friday (February 24) as Stratford Conservative Association revealed they were in talks over whether to de-select the 55-year-old as MP for Stratford at the next election.
The Conservative Association will make its decision by March 31.
Mr Zahawi was sacked from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet for a ‘serious breach of the Ministerial Code’ related to his tax affairs in January.
The sacking followed an an investigation by the PM’s ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus after it emerged Mr Zahawi had paid a seven-figure settlement, including a penalty, to HMRC for tax avoidance.
Sir Laurie found Mr Zahawi had been in breach of the ministerial code on seven occasions by failing to declare his tax affairs and denying media reports he was under investigation by HMRC.
This included not declaring he was being investigated by the tax body when he was appointed chancellor by Boris Johnson.
The investigation took six days to complete.
Mr Zahawi’s commitment to the Stratford constituency came as he apologised for filling in his tax forms incorrectly.
He said: “I think what was important was that Sir Laurie said that I cooperated fully and I was completely open, in fact I gave him access to my tax returns as a whole, and if the paperwork wasn’t correctly filled in then I accept that and take full responsibility for that and I apologise for that.
“The important thing I think is to make sure that I remind people that what actually happened was the assessment from HMRC was that it was a careless not a deliberate issue, it was something that I dealt with immediately and I accepted without argument the settlement that they put forward and I move forward from there.”
Mr Zahawi said he “completely accepted the position of the prime minister” when Mr Sunak said he had to go.
He added: “But it is really important to focus now on the constituency and learn from the experience and hopefully make sure that I am as good a member of parliament as I can be for the people of Stratford.”
Campaign group Stratford-on-Avon Compass have, however, called on Mr Zahawi to resign as MP.
Vikki Parker, campaign group co-ordinator, said: “Nadhim Zahawi has been sacked from his role as Conservative Party chair following the investigation into his tax affairs, but despite everything that’s happened he’s still in Westminster representing our constituency.
“If he isn’t fit to be the Conservative Party Chair, he isn’t fit to be an MP.”
Mr Zahawi has been MP for Stratford since 2010. At the last general election in 2019, he won a majority of 19,972.
Vikki added: “The reason I’m part of Compass is that I don’t feel represented. I’ve voted all my life and never been represented by somebody I voted for.
“Nadhim Zahawi is an absentee MP. I feel he does little locally and this tax fiasco is yet another example of the sleaze, corruption and dishonesty that continues to taint the Conservative party.”
Stratford Conservative Association has been approached for comment.