STRATFORD constituents say they deserve better than Nadhim Zahawi after he was reselected as their Conservative candidate.
The Stratford Conservative Association met on Friday night (March 31) and agreed to re-adopt Mr Zahawi as their candidate for the next general election despite him being sacked from the government earlier in the year over his tax affairs.
The 55-year-old 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, who has been Stratford MP since 2010, has maintained from the outset that he acted properly, and that his tax error was “careless and not deliberate”.
Following the conclusion of the inquiry he voiced his commitment to the constituency, pledging to “make sure that I am as good a member of parliament as I can be for the people of Stratford”.
But Hazel Underwood, Chair of campaign group Stratford on Avon Compass, said the news that Mr Zahawi had been reselected as the Conservative candidate for Stratford was incredibly disappointing.
She continued: “The people in our constituency deserve better. Stratford needs an MP we can respect and trust who will put the people in our community first. Given everything that’s happened, it’s difficult to see how he can carry out these duties effectively.”
Hazel added: “While the news of his reselection is disappointing, Nadhim Zahawi is now such a toxic figure in Stratford that we hope this will spur progressives on to unite and coalesce behind a single candidate. This way, we’ll stand the best chance of defeating him.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Dr Manuela Perteghella said it was disappointing the local Conservative party believed Mr Zahawi to be fit to represent the constituency.
She continued: “Stratford on Avon deserves a local champion, standing up for our towns and villages, and not an MP mired in sleaze and scandal.”
Following their decision, the Stratford Conservative’s wrote on their website: “Tonight the Executive Council of Stratford-on-Avon Conservative Association re-adopted Nadhim Zahawi as our parliamentary candidate. We look forward to continuing to work alongside him to deliver for the residents and communities within the constituency.”
Back in January the Conservative Association said they respected the result of the independent enquiry, along with the decision and action by the PM.
They continued they commended Mr Zahawi for being a hardworking, collaborative and approachable constituency MP with an open door for residents, many of whom he had helped, and were confident he would continue to serve constituents conscientiously from the back benches.