Politics

All the scandals and controversies the Tories have already given us in 2023

Labour calls for investigation into claim BBC chair helped Boris Johnson get a loan

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January isn’t even over yet, and the Conservative Party has kindly given us a handful of political scandals and controversies to deal with already – in a way which is less ‘new year, new me’ and more ‘same mistakes, same Tories’.

In this weekend alone we’ve had a double whammy of troubling blunders, involving party chairman and Cabinet Office minister Nadhim Zahawi and former prime minister Boris Johnson (yes, he’s still making headlines several months after leaving the top job).

So in a short period of time which would make Liz Truss and her 45 days in office jealous, the Conservatives are at it again – and we’ve rounded up the top scandals below for your viewing displeasure.

Boris, the BBC and the alleged £800,000 loan

It sounds like a rejected book from The Chronicles of Narnia, but the ex-prime minister has found himself under fire over a report in The Times that he recommended Tory donor and ex-Goldman Sachs banker Richard Sharp for the role of BBC chairman while PM after he helped Mr Johnson with arranging a loan guarantee.

The BBC said it “plays no involvement in the recruitment of the chair”, Mr Sharp said “there is not a conflict” and a spokesperson for Mr Johnson branded the allegations as “rubbish”.

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Nadhim Zahawi’s tax row

According to sources reportedly speaking to the Sun on Sunday, the former vaccines minster has agreed to pay several million pounds in tax to HM Revenue and Customs following a dispute over his use of an offshore company to hold shares in the polling firm YouGov.

In a statement released on Saturday, Mr Zahawi said questions were being raised around his tax affairs when he was appointed chancellor – something he discussed with the Cabinet Office “at the time”.

“Following discussions with HMRC, they agreed that my father was entitled to founder shares in YouGov, though they disagreed about the exact allocation. They concluded that this was a ‘careless and not deliberate’ error.

“So that I could focus on my life as a public servant, I chose to settle the matter and pay what they said was due, which was the right thing to do,” he said.

Boris Johnson hosting ‘the most unsocially distanced party in the UK’ during lockdown

The Partygate revelations just keep on coming for the disaster-prone former PM, as ITV News reported earlier this month that Mr Johnson allegedly joked about social distancing rules during one of the rule-breaking parties – specifically, that the party he was at was “the most unsocially distanced party in the UK right now”.

The broadcaster also claimed when they approached Mr Johnson for comment, he did not deny saying it.

All of this is particularly bothersome for the PM as he previously made a statement upon receiving a Metropolitan Police fine that “it did not occur” to him that a party he attended “might have been a breach of the rules”, yet this suggests at one party he was very much aware of that fact.

To make matters worse, the Commons’ Committee on Standards is still investigating whether he knowingly misled MPs when he told parliament all guidance had been followed.

'Seatbeltgate'

Elsewhere, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak became the first person to break the law as both chancellor and prime minister, when Lancashire Police handed him another fixed penalty notice to add to the one he received over Partygate for not wearing a seatbelt in a moving vehicle.

"After looking into this matter, we have today (Friday, January 20th) issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty,” the force said in a statement.

The PM’s spokesman, meanwhile, said it was a “mistake”.

This “mistake”, when viewed alongside Mr Zahawi’s “careless” error over his taxes, makes us wonder just how effective the Tories are at governing when they experience such a lack of common sense.

Andrew Bridgen comparing the Covid vaccine to the Holocaust

The North West Leicester MP tweeted earlier this month that the coronavirus vaccine is “the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust”, comments which angered the public and led to him having the Conservative Party whip removed.

Simon Hart MP, the government’s chief whip, said Mr Bridgen had “crossed a line” which caused “great offence in the process”.

“Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives. I am therefore removing the whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation,” he said.

Suella Braverman dismissing concerns from a child survivor of the Holocaust

While attending an event as a constituency MP, Home Secretary Suella Braverman was challenged on the language she has used to describe the migrant crisis – terms such as “invasion”, which she used back in October – by a child survivor of the Holocaust.

In a video shared by the charity Freedom from Torture, Joan Salter, 83, introduced herself as someone forced to flee her home country of Belgium in 1943 and travel “across war-torn Europe and dangerous seas” before coming to the UK in 1947.

“Now, when I hear you using words against refugees like ‘swarms’ and an ‘invasion’, I am reminded of the language used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family, and millions of others.

“Why do you find the need to use that kind of language,” she asked.

Replying to Ms Salter, the MP for Fareham (near Portsmouth) said she “won’t apologise for the language that I’ve used” to “demonstrate the scale of the problem” around immigration – a response which angered individuals online.

The Home Office later responded by claiming the footage “misrepresents the interaction about a sensitive area of policy” and adding they have asked Freedom from Torture to “take down” the video.

Except the organisation didn’t do that, and posted the full video instead, in which Ms Braverman didn’t come across much better.

In a further development, the Home Office faced accusations it had breached the Civil Service Code and rules on impartiality after the department rushed to defend the home secretary’s remarks made in a parliamentary and political capacity.

A Home Office spokesperson told Indy100: "It is completely appropriate for the Home Office to comment on matters of policy which the department leads on.”

Child asylum seekers being abducted from a Home Office hotel

The Observerrevealed on Saturday that dozens of children seeking asylum in the UK have been kidnapped by criminal gangs in Brighton outside of a hotel run by the Home Office, with a source telling the paper that children “are literally being picked up from outside the building” and are being “taken from the street by traffickers”.

The Home Office said in a statement: “We have robust safeguarding procedures in place to ensure all children in our care are as safe and supported as possible as we seek urgent placements with a local authority.”

Upsetting the union and undermining democracy by blocking the Scottish parliament’s gender reforms

For the first time ever, the UK government used a Section 35 order under the Scotland Act 1998 to block legislation passed by Scotland’s parliament from receiving royal assent and officially becoming law.

The bill in question was the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which sought to make it easier for transgender people in Scotland to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and have their gender legally recognised.

However, Scottish secretary Alister Jack intervened with the order after deciding the proposed legislation “would have a significant impact on … GB-wide equalities matters in Scotland, England and Wales”.

Specifically, they mean the Equality Act 2010, which actually outlaws discrimination against “protected characteristics” – of which “gender reassignment” is one of them.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, described the Tories’ move as a “full-frontal attack” on the country’s “democratically elected” parliament.

Lee Anderson

Anderson has been in the news an awful lot in 2023Parliament TV

We feel as though we don’t need to say anything more in that subheading for you to understand who or what we’re talking about, as the Ashfield MP – all within the space of a month – has given us terrible takes on the cost of living crisis, used one of his parliamentary staffers’ personal details to score political points, and challenged anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray to a boxing match.

Give us a break, 30p Lee

Sajid Javid calling for NHS patients to pay for GP and A&E visits

The former health secretary attracted criticism this week for writing in The Times that MPs should look at “extending the contributory principle” of the NHS and the introduction of “co-payments” within the health service.

“Across Europe we see different versions of a contributory principle to complement public financing. This helps providers manage demand, and direct it to more efficient methods of supply,” the Bromsgrove MP said.

The comments were soon branded “disgraceful” by people online.

All of this, and we still have another week of January to go…

God help us all.

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