Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was “clear that there has been a serious breach of the ministerial code”, but Mr Zahawi made no apology for his actions and attacked the conduct of the media
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had resisted earlier calls from opposition parties to fire Mr Zahawi following reports that he had paid a penalty as part of an estimated £4.8 million settlement dispute with HMRC.
He had instead asked his new ethics adviser – Sir Laurie Magnus – to assess whether the settlement amounted to a breach of the ministerial code.
In a letter written to the PM, pictured right, following the conclusion of his investigation, Sir Laurie said Mr Zahawi had “shown insufficient regard for the general principles of the ministerial code” and had not fulfilled the requirements of being an “honest, open and an exemplary leader”.
Following Sir Laurie’s findings, the PM wrote to Mr Zahawi, saying it was “clear that there has been a serious breach of the ministerial code” and announcing his sacking as Tory chairman.
The Liberal Democrats have now called for Mr Zahawi to step down from his role as an MP after saying he is “unfit to serve the people of Stratford-on-Avon”.
But in a letter to Mr Sunak following his sacking – in which he made no apology for his actions – Mr Zahawi told the PM he can be “assured of my support from the backbenches in the coming years”.
He added that he was concerned “about the conduct from some of the fourth estate in recent weeks”, in a reference to the media.
Mr Zahawi said: “It has been, after being blessed with my loving family, the privilege of my life to serve in successive governments and make what I believe to have been a tangible difference to the country I love.”
He added: “I am sorry to my family for the toll this has taken on them.”
Labour’s party chairman Anneliese Dodds criticised Mr Sunak’s handling of the situation, saying he “didn’t need an investigation to deal with this matter, he needed a backbone”.
“We knew about these allegations for a very long period of time,” she told Sky News.
“The prime minister, he vacillated, he wobbled, he couldn’t decide what to do – even after it had become clear that while he was chancellor, Mr Zahawi had been the person in charge of HMRC while he was actually negotiating with HMRC.”
Ms Dodds said the public “rightly expect far better of their government and Rishi Sunak has let people down on this”.
“He is just too weak to put the interests of our country first rather than, it seems, the interests of his internal party management,” she added.
It is understood that the PM is unlikely to appoint a new Conservative chairman by the end of Sunday.