Sunak and cabinet head to Chequers as pressure grows on PM to sack Zahawi – UK politics live | Politics

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the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, says she has a “special bond” with Boris Johnson in an interview in which he branded Vladimir Putin a “nobody” and suggested it was too late for personal talks with the Russian leader.

Speaking to Sky News, Zelenskiy declined to say whether Johnson, whom he described as “a good guy”, should be given an official role to represent the UK in Ukraine. Laughing he said:

Who knows? With pleasure, with pleasure actually.

His comments came after Johnson made a surprise visit to Ukraine this weekend, which he said was at the invitation of President Zelensky. Johnson was photographed in the Kiev region town of Borodianka and said it was a “privilege” to be there to show solidarity with the war-torn nation.

Boris Johnson made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday.
Boris Johnson made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday. Photo: Ukrainian Presidential Press Off/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

When asked if he would support another bid from Johnson to become prime minister, Zelenskiy replied:

I think it is not right for me to support Johnson as prime minister. We have good relations with Sunak. I think we had a longer relationship with Johnson because it was longer. I saw Johnson in different situations, I didn’t see him in war and then in full-blown war, that’s why we have special relationships.

My colleague Martin Belam brings all the latest news about the war between Russia and Ukraine on our blog.

The Zahawi investigation could be completed within 10 days, says the senior minister

The Secretary of Work and Pension, Mel Stride, has proposed the ethical probe Nadhim Zahawi could be completed in just 10 days.

Asked on ITV’s Peston program last night about rumors the probe could be done in 10 days, Stride said it “would not be atypical” for Lord Laurie Magnus to work in that time frame.

He added:

I can’t get signed on an arrangement where I don’t know all the details. But the good news is that we will hear – in about 10 days or so – from the Ethics Adviser, who will report to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister will then have the facts and be able to make those very judgments.

Downing Street did not set a timeline or indicate the pace of the investigation, saying it only hoped Sir Laurie could report “soon”.

The question of who knew what Nadhim Zahawi‘s dealings with the taxpayer and when in Whitehall and No. 10 is the subject of intense research and could yet define Rishi Sunakpremiership.

Sunak has attempted to raise suggestions that he knew Zahawi had paid a fine to HMRC ahead of his appointment as Conservative party chairman on 25 October 2022.

The prime minister initially told the House of Representatives last week that Zahawi had already “completely” dealt with the matter. But after the Guardian revealed on Friday that a fine had been paid, the prime minister’s spokesman declined to confirm that Sunak had been informed of this detail by Zahawi or officials.

Zahawi paid an estimated £5 million in total, including interest, about £3.7 million in tax owed and a 30% penalty, a source told The Guardian. Sunak told MPs on Wednesday: “The issues in question arose before I was prime minister.”

He added:

The usual appointment process was followed, no issues were raised with me when he was appointed to his current position and more information has emerged since I responded to this matter last week. That is why I have asked the independent consultant to look into this.

Sunak’s version of events is set against more than two years of discussions about Zahawi’s financial dealings at the highest levels in Whitehall, among Sunak’s own former department, the Treasury, and his former and current cabinet colleagues.

The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, were made aware of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation into Zahawi back in 2020, the Guardian understands.

Read the full story here:

Rishi Sunak’s cabinet as beleaguered prime minister goes to Checkers to sack Nadhim Zahawi

Good morning. Rishi Sunak we organize a cabinet day at his country house, Chequers, where the Nadhim Zahawi is expected to attend, in an outing that has been dubbed a “hideout day” by opposition parties.

The cabinet’s farewell day comes after days of damaging headlines about Zahawi’s tax affairs, which saw the Conservative party chairman subject to an ethics investigation. Sunak ordered an investigation Lord Laurie Magnus, his independent advisor for ministers’ interests, to ascertain whether Zahawi had broken ministerial rules over the estimated £4.8 million bill he settled with HMRC when he was chancellor.

The result of that investigation could only take 10 days, according to the Secretary of Work and Pensions. Mel Step. Speaking on ITV’s Peston program on Wednesday, he said:

I can’t get signed on an arrangement where I don’t know all the details. But the good news is that in about ten days we will hear from the Ethics Adviser, who will report to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister will then have the facts and be able to make those very judgements.

Senior Tories and the opposition are putting increasing pressure on Sunak to take decisive action against Zahawi, despite an ongoing investigation.

Sunak will sack Zahawi if he is judged to have made “breach” of ministerial code, Commerce Minister Andrew Bowie told the BBC last night. Lord Barwell, a former Downing Street chief of staff to Theresa May, said the lack of public defense for Zahawi suggested his role could be in jeopardy.

The meeting also comes after my colleague Pippa Crerar reported it Dominic Raab is facing a much wider investigation into bullying than initially expected, with at least 24 officials involved in formal complaints against him.

Downing Street gave few details on what today’s Checkers Away Day would entail, but said cabinet ministers would “focus on the five priority areas” Sunak spoke of in his New Year’s speech.

The Lib Dems accused the prime minister and his cabinet of evading effective surveillance as the country grapples with a series of crises. Deputy leader of the Lib Dem Daisy Cooper said:

While Rishi Sunak and his scandal-stricken ministers are having a ‘hideout day’ at Checkers, the rest of the country suffers from this endless conservative chaos. The NHS is in crisis and people are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, but Conservative ministers are too busy fighting to save their own careers. Sunak’s promise to rule with integrity is now in tatters. He can’t even handle the many crises his cabinet is facing, let alone the huge challenges facing the country.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9:30 am. NHS England will publish its weekly hospital situation report, plus figures for GP appointments and GP/NHS staff.

9:30 am. Office for National Statistics publishes its figures on economic activity and social change in the UK.

9:30 am. In the Commons: questions about digital, culture, media and sport; Questions to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the House of Commons Commission, the Parliamentary Work Sponsor Organization, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speaker’s Committee of the Election Commission; Business Statement and Questions to the Leader of the Chamber; General Debate on Holocaust Memorial Day; Postponement debate over the expansion of the Midland Metro.

11 hours. In the Lords: introduction of Lord Sewell of Sanderstead; Oral questions on supporting UK manufacturing post-Brexit, proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act, and meeting the needs of autistic pupils in mainstream secondary schools; Debate about the resilience of the armed forces; Short debate on the Skidmore net zero review; Debate on the life chances and educational prospects of vulnerable teenagers.

12 o’clock. Rishi Sunak’s cabinet meets for a day out at the prime minister’s mansion, Checkers.

12 o’clock. Questions from the Prime Minister will take place in Holyrood.

14.00 hours. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will publish its weekly Covid-19 and flu surveillance report.

3:30 pm. Reading of the cabinet meeting.

Hello all. I’m Léonie Chao-Fong and I’ll be reporting from Andrew Sparrow on the blog today and tomorrow. Feel free to contact us on Twitter or by email.

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