STRATFORD MP and new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has joined the race to become the next Conservative Party Leader.
The announcement comes as allegations swirled around his financial affairs – allegations Mr Zahawi has been quick to dismiss as “smears”.
Launching his leadership bid on Saturday (July 9), Mr Zahawi said he would lower taxes for individuals, families and businesses, increase defence spending, and continue with educational reforms that he started in his previous role as education secretary.
The MP will complete against a packed field of hopefuls for the top job with 11 fellow Conservatives throwing their hat into the ring, including former chancellor Rishi Sunak, Grant Shapps, Penny Mordant, Jeremy Hunt and Priti Patel.
The 55-year-old is being backed by Michelle Donelan who resigned from the role of education secretary after less than 36 hours in the post, and former Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis.
He said: “My aim is a simple one – to provide the opportunities that were afforded to my generation, to all Britons, whoever you are and wherever you come from. To steady the ship and to stabilise the economy.
“Thanks to Brexit we are now a free nation. Let’s not just talk about the opportunities that follow. Let’s take them”.
Mr Zahawi added that he wanted to “focus on letting children be children, protecting them from damaging and inappropriate nonsense forced on them by radical activists”.
Mr Zahawi was appointed new chancellor by the Prime Minister last week following the resignation of chancellor Rishi Sunak along with some 25 other members of the government in protest to the conduct of Boris Johnson.
His loyalty to the PM appeared to have paid off as he was handed the keys to No. 11, however within 24 hours Mr Zahawi was adding his voice to calls for the Prime Minister to step down – a move which appeared to tip the balance and lead to Mr Johnson finally relinquishing his seat as Conservative Party Leader with immediate effect and scheduling his departure as PM for the autumn.
A Conservative leadership contest is scheduled to take place over the summer with the aim of having a new Prime Minister in place in time for the party’s conference in October.
But Mr Zahawi’s place in the running has not got off to the best start, as it emerged over the weekend that a flag had been raised by HM Revenue and Customs over his financial affairs even before he was promoted to Chancellor. Mr Johnson was allegedly made aware of this flag before making the appointment.
A parliamentary source said: “These sorts of concerns would stop someone receiving an MBE or OBE. The idea he could be chancellor or even prime minister is unbelieveable”.
The revelation comes after a report last week in the Independent that an investigation had been launched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) into Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs. A senior Whitehall source told the Independent that the investigation is currently unresolved.
A spokesperson for Mr Zahawi said “All Mr Zahawi’s financial interests have been properly and transparently declared. Mr Zahawi is not aware of any formal investigation by HMRC. His taxes are fully paid and up-to-date”.
Mr Zahawi made his money in oil and polling company YouGov. He is worth more than £100million.