Sunak and ministers prepare for day of checkers trip as Zahawi tax dispute continues

Rishi Sunak and his cabinet will travel to Checkers for a day away on Thursday as the government continues to grapple with questions over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs.

The outing, which Downing Street says will focus on the Prime Minister’s political priorities, has been dubbed a ‘hideout day’ by opposition parties.

The under fire Zahawi is expected to join the rally at the campaign retreat against the backdrop of an ethics inquiry into the conservative president.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer on Wednesday criticized Mr Sunak in the House of Commons over the controversy, accusing him of being too weak to sack his party chairman.

The prime minister said it could be “politically expedient” to sack Zahawi, but “due process” was important.

Downing Street gave few details on what the away day would entail, but the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said government ministers would be “focused on the five priority areas that the Prime Minister spoke about in his speech, both in terms of progress update on those five goals and what more can be done.”

Mr Sunak set out his five pledges in a New Year’s address, which included halving inflation by the end of the year and reducing NHS waiting lists.

A political cabinet will also be held, in which ministers discuss political issues without the presence of officials, although it is unclear whether Zahawi in his role as Tory president will give a presentation to colleagues before local elections in May.

Nadhim Zahawi (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Liberal Democrats accused the cabinet of effectively evading scrutiny as the country grapples with a series of crises, noting that along with Zahawi, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is under a bullying investigation while Sunak himself is fresh off being fined for not wearing a seat belt in a moving car.

“While Rishi Sunak and his scandal-stricken ministers hold a day of ‘shelter’ at Checkers, the rest of the country suffers from this never-ending Conservative chaos,” said Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper.

“The NHS is in crisis and people are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, but Conservative ministers are too busy fighting to save their careers.

“Sunak’s promise to rule with integrity now lies in tatters. He can’t even deal with the multiple crises facing his cabinet, not to mention the enormous challenges facing the country.

“The audience deserves so much more than this daily soap opera of squalor and scandal. All people want is a fair deal with competent government and public services they can rely on.”

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