Nadine Dorries breaches ministerial code as Zahawi sacked over tax affairs

Downing Street Policy & Politics Westminster

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries has been accused of breaking the ministerial code by parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog over hosting a TV show.

Dorries failed to consult with the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) before taking up the presenter’s role of a new talk-show on Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV.

‘Friday Night with Nadine’ begins this week (Feb 3) with an “exclusive” interview with Boris Johnson.

Lord Pickles, the chair of Acoba said Dorries’ “failing to seek and await advice” about the position was a breach of the rules and ministerial code. However, “given the transparent nature” of the role, Pickles said it would be “disproportionate to take any further action in this case”, in a letter to Oliver Dowden the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Pickles said the case is a “further illustration of how out of date the government’s rules are”.

These currently require ministers to seek clearance and advice from Acoba for new employment of appointments taken within two years of leaving office.

Meanwhile, Sunak has finally sacked Nadhim Zahawi from his cabinet – six months after the Independent reminds its readers that it first exposed the scandal.

Sunak cited a “serious breach of the ministerial code” in his letter to Zahawi, stripping the Conservative party chairman and former chancellor of his cabinet role.

An investigation by the prime minister’s ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus found Zahawi had broken the ministerial code seven times over his tax affairs.

Calling on Zahawi to step down as an MP, Liberal Democrats deputy leader Daisy Cooper, said: “He has shown he is unfit to serve in cabinet and unfit to serve the people of Stratford-on-Avon.”

The prime minister’s handling of the debacle surrounding Zahawi has raised more questions over his judgment and leadership.

It is just three months since Sunak took over at No 10 yet he has already lost his party chairman, as well as having to replace Sir Gavin Williamson over bullying allegations.

On top of this, Sunak reappointed Suella Braverman as home secretary only six days after she was sacked from the role by former-PM Liz Truss over a breach of the ministerial code for leaking confidential documents. Furthermore, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab remains under investigation over bullying allegations against civil servants.

While pressure mounts on the PM and speculation rises about how long Sunak will last in No 10, the prospect of disgraced former PM Boris Johnson returning to take over Downing Street grows. This despite the litany of scandals that marked his reign at No 10 compounded by recent revelations surrounding Johnson’s appointment of the BBC chairman and allegations over securing £800,000 loan guarantee.

When asked if the seven principles of public life, as laid out in the ministerial code of conduct, still apply to Conservative MPs, health and social care minister Helen Whately told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Yes completely. I think those seven principles are really important and I take time to look back at them from time to time as a minister.”

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