NADHIM Zahawi says his focus is now firmly on sorting out the nation’s finances after his bid to become the next prime minister ended at the first hurdle.
The Stratford MP joined the race to become Conservative Party leader after under-fire prime minster Boris Johnson finally succumbed to pressure last week and resigned.
The prime minster’s resignation came less than 48 hours after he had appointed Mr Zahawi as chancellor of the exchequer following Rishi Sunak’s resignation from the post in protest at Mr Johnson’s leadership.
Mr Zahawi joined seven other candidates in the race for the party leadership after each secured the support of at least 20 of their Conservative colleagues.
But that number was whittled down to six after the first vote on Wednesday saw Mr Zahawi and Mr Hunt fail to gain the support of at least 30 colleagues. Mr Zahawi received 25 votes.
In a statement afterwards, Mr Zahawi said his “total focus” would now be on his new role as chancellor as the “steward of the nation’s finances”.
He added: “I stood because I have a passionate vision for the United Kingdom that I want to see. One where ability, skills and productivity are the key to achieving success and where there is opportunity for all.
“Clearly my part in the contest has now ended. My priority is my work as chancellor of the Exchequer.”
In his leadership bid, Mr Zahawi had promised to cut taxes, increase defence spending, citing the potential threat from Russia and China, and to reform education, to ensure “the next generation had the tools they need to succeed in life”.
During his short-lived campaign, Mr Zahawi had highlighted his success in delivering the Covid vaccination programme during his time as the so-called ‘vaccines minister”, when he first came to the attention of the wider public.
But it is understood some of his Tory parliamentary colleagues were unhappy that the day after having been appointed chancellor by the prime minister, he was then among those telling Mr Johnson it was time to step down.
And his campaign was not helped by allegations made in a national newspaper at the weekend concerning his financial affairs – allegations multi-millionaire Mr Zahawi, who made his money in oil and as co-founder of market research firm YouGov, was quick to dismiss.
In a campaign video, the Iraqi-born politician started by speaking about how he came to Britain with his family aged 11, speaking no English, to escape the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. The father of three finished by saying he had “lived the British dream” and now wanted others in the country to live their British dream.
Votes will continue for the Tory leadership over the coming days until two candidates remain, with the eventual winner announced on September 5.
Mr Johnson has scheduled his departure as PM for the autumn but there have been calls from all political sides for him to leave number 10 now.