Still, you’d think the disgraced ex- Tory leader could keep his allies posted on his plans so that they don’t end up with egg on their faces. Unfortunately for Nadhim Zahawi, this is precisely what happened.
Zahawi, who is perhaps best known for taking on the role of Vaccines minister during the Covid pandemic, swiftly became one of the highest-profile backers of his former boss in the latest Tory leadership race, tweeting on Sunday morning: “I’m backing Boris. He got the big calls right,” adding: “Britain needs him back. We need to unite to deliver on our manifesto.”
Continuing his gushing praise, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster insisted that Johnson was “the one to lead us to victory and prosperity”.
\u201cWhen I was Chancellor, I saw a preview of what Boris 2.0 would look like. He was contrite & honest about his mistakes. He\u2019d learned from those mistakes how he could run No10 & the country better.\nWith a unified team behind him, he is the one to lead us to victory & prosperity 2/2\u201d
Just hours later, The Telegraph published a comment piece by the former Education Secretary-turned-Chancellor, titled ‘Get ready for Boris 2.0, the man who will make the Tories and Britain great again’.
But for Zahawi, and the paper, the comic timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate: no sooner had they hit the “publish” button than the former PM declared he was pulling out of the contest.
The Stratford-upon-Avon MP was quick on his feet, however, tweeting half an hour after his pro-Boris article went up online that it was now “clear that we should turn to Rishi Sunak to become our next Prime Minister”.
\u201cA day is a long time in politics...\n\nGiven today's news, it's clear that we should turn to @RishiSunak to become our next Prime Minister. Rishi is immensely talented, will command a strong majority in the parliamentary Conservative Party, and will have my full support & loyalty.\u201d
Fair enough, you might say – his preferred candidate is out so now he’s trying to help unite the party by endorsing the clear frontrunner.
But what’s really getting Twitter’s goat is not this sudden U-turn but the fact that Zahawi offered Johnson his backing in the first place, given how they ended their time in the Cabinet together just three-and-a-half months ago.
Just two days after the then Chancellor (yes, we’ve had two more since then) was appointed to the Treasury in a Cabinet reshuffle, he told his boss to end his premiership and “leave with dignity”.
In a jaw-dropping statement, Zahawi wrote that Johnson “hadn’t listened” to his pleas and that “he is now undermining the incredible achievements of this Government”.
He added emphatically: “The country deserves a Government that is not only stable, but which acts with integrity”.
So the question begs to be asked, if we deserved that back in July, do we not deserve it now?
\u201cPrime Minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country. You must do the right thing and go now.\u201d
It is a simple and fundamental principle that the government derives its democratic legitimacy from the people. The future of the country must not be decided by plotting and U-turns at Westminster; it must be decided by the people in a general election. And for this reason The Independent is calling for an election to be held. Have your say and sign our election petition by clicking here.
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