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Rishi Sunak struggles to defend party chairman Nadhim Zahawi at PMQs

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured at PMQs yesterday) will eventually have to drop the Conservative party chairman to the brackish depths.  The truth is that Nadhim Zahawi's petty feud with HMRC bean counters has made him a minister with way too much baggage.

The Zahawi case pong like an old kipper stashed behind a radiator: HENRY DEEDES watches Rishi Sunak fight to defend his party chairman

When an overloaded lifeboat begins to take on water, its captain is faced with a stark choice: he can hope to ride out the storm, or he can decide to chase the heaviest passenger, leaving him at the mercy of the sea. .

With the government’s reputation for integrity, such as it is, dipping dangerously below the waterline thanks to Nadhim Zahawi’s tax deals, the Prime Minister has so far opted for the former. Yet the longer this saga drags on, the more likely it is that Mr Sunak will eventually have to drop the Conservative party chairman into the brackish depths. The truth is that Zahawi’s petty feud with the bean counters at HMRC has made him a minister with way too much baggage.

At PMQs yesterday, Sunak was not confronted with the bonds and ties that many had anticipated. A typically wooly performance by Sir Keir Starmer denied us this spectacle. And maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise. Give Sir Keir a custard pie to throw and somehow he’ll land it on his own face.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured at PMQs yesterday) will eventually have to drop the Conservative party chairman to the brackish depths.  The truth is that Nadhim Zahawi's petty feud with HMRC bean counters has made him a minister with way too much baggage.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured at PMQs yesterday) will eventually have to drop the Conservative party chairman to the brackish depths. The truth is Nadhim Zahawi’s petty feud with HMRC bean counters has made him a minister with far, far too much baggage

The stench surrounding the Zahawi business (pictured Tuesday) is clearly not going away.  Instead, the pong looks set to linger around the Commons like a week-old kipper someone hid behind a heater

The stench surrounding the Zahawi business (pictured Tuesday) is clearly not going away. Instead, the pong looks set to linger around the Commons like a week-old kipper someone hid behind a heater

But the stench surrounding the Zahawi case has clearly not dissipated. Instead, the pong looks set to linger around the Commons like a week-old kipper someone hid behind a heater.

You could see the Prime Minister knew he was going to get roughed up the moment he walked into the Chamber. Gone is the playground bluster of previous weeks. For the first time in these fights, he opted to wear his glasses, no doubt hoping it would help him look serious enough.

As he sat down, the Labor benches quickly rallied. “Where is Nadhim? Where is Nadhim? they were chirping. Unsurprisingly, Zahawi was AWOL. MIA.

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Sir Keir took the House wrong by first asking about Zara Aleena, the law graduate who was murdered by Jordan McSweeney just nine days after the thug’s release from prison. After a loud departure, a mournful silence suddenly descended on the House. It does that sometimes. The mood here can change faster than the weather in the Outer Hebrides.

Starmer blamed the government’s “underinvestment” in the probation service. Turns out he had spoken to Zara’s parents hours earlier, who told him the government had “blood on their hands.”

No one could blame them for feeling that way. But was it right for the Labor leader to benefit from such an intimate conversation? “Discuss,” as they say in academia.

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured yesterday at PMQs) has accused Sunak of being

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured at PMQs yesterday) accused Sunak of being ‘weak’ for not sacking Zahawi and suggested the PM’s job was ‘too big for him’, an apparent jibe on the size of Rishi. Stupid. Needless to say Labor MPs found him hysterical

The hemicycle being at a standstill, the conversation suddenly turned to the Zahawi affair. The change in tone was shocking, as subtle as a learner driver shifting into third gear.

Sunak admitted that his remarks to the dispatch box the previous week, which said the matter had been “fully addressed,” were not entirely accurate. Since then, he admitted, “other problems have arisen”. Translation: My colleague up front wasn’t completely candid with me. Oh dear. Labor MPs launched a volley of mockery.

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Soon came the insults. In Starmer’s case, these are becoming more and more ad hominem every week, which doesn’t sit well with him. You get the impression that he’s the kind of person who’d rather kick flies out of an open window than splatter them with a newspaper.

He accused Sunak of being “weak” for not sacking Zahawi and suggested the premiership was “too big for him”, an apparent joke about Rishi’s size. Stupid. Needless to say, Labor MPs found him hysterical.

There was also a dig into Ms. Sunak’s non-dom status. Rishi grimaced as if someone had squirted lemon juice on his eyeballs. Hates that his family gets dragged into his business. As Starmer would, though so far Rishi has rightly left them alone.

Instead, Rishi resorted to his tried and true attack on Sir Keir’s choice to serve alongside Jeremy Corbyn. He received a decent acclaim but thanks to Zahawi he was hiding for nothing.

Man overboard time?

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