A petition on Change.org calling on the government to remove Children and Families Under Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has racked up almost 2,000 signatures. Two more petitions were submitted on Parliament’s own Petitions site, but were rejected because the site does not allow petitions asking for government ministers to be sacked.
Zahawi came to the public’s attention after he attended the President’s Club dinner, which was widely condemned for its appalling treatment of waitresses and hostesses working at the function, and its controversial non disclosure agreement which prevented employees from talking about incidents of sexual harassment at the venue. The club has since shut down, but question marks remain over Zahawi’s attendance after an Urgent Question in the House of Commons revealed inconsistencies in Zahawi’s statements about the event.
The petition reads:
“Nadhim Zahawi has been reprimanded by Chief Whip, Julian Smith, for attending the men only The Presidents Club fundraiser where hostesses were subjected to groping and lewd comments. Mr Zahawi claims that he left the event early but has admitted to having attended the event in previous years.
TheyWorkForYou.com statistics show that Mr Zahawi generally votes against laws to promote equality and human rights and has consistently voted for University tuition fees.
Mr Zahawi also called for cuts to Child Benefits and Child Tax Credits and for them to be stopped after two children. Zahawi said: “Capping welfare by family size would save billions.”
Even though Mr Zahawi states that he “felt uncomfortable” at the men only fundraiser, why would somebody who felt it was acceptable to go to a men only event be the right person to speak for children and families?”
Whilst the President’s Club scandal continues to plague Zahawi – his constituents are still demanding answers to questions , which he is refusing to give – his income and connections are raising eyebrows as well. Listed as the second richest MP in Britain, largely due to his involvement with an oil company operating inside Iraq, Zahawi was also a former adviser to David Cameron, and counts Michael Gove as one of his closest friends. Tipped to be a government official by Cameron in 2013, tensions rose between the pair after Zahawi suggested an amnesty for illegal immigrants. David Cameron publicly hit out at Zahawi over the comments, during an EU summit, telling attendees it was not a policy he supported.
No stranger to controversy, Zahawi was also accused of supplying oil to Islamic State by Iranian media outlet, Press TV in 2017. Zahawi took the broadcaster to court and later won damages for libel after the judge claimed that Zahawi had been a victim of fake news.
His voting record too, makes for compelling reading. Zahawi has consistently voted against legislation promoting equality and human rights, a sticking point particularly after the President’s Club fiasco. He has also voted against an investigation into the Iraq war, more specifically, “against an investigation into the contrast between public statements and private actions in the run up to the Iraq war”.
Zahawi’s election to the role of children and families lead is an unusual one. Unlike his predecessors, Zahawi has not been given a full Ministerial role. As Parliamentary Under Secretary, which is the lowest of three tiers of government minister in the United Kingdom, Zahawi is subordinate to Ministers of State, who in turn answer to Secretaries of State. An uncharitable quote by the Duke of Devonshire who served in McMillan’s 1957- 1963 Conservative government, sums up the title:
“No one who hasn’t been a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State has any conception of how unimportant a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State is.”
Whilst some news outlets at the time of Zahawi’s appointment suggested that the diminutive title was a reflection of the government’s lack of interest in child welfare, the truth is more likely to center around Zahawi’s own credentials and the reasons behind his elevation to a government department position.
And as a junior government official, Zahawi will be very keen to please the Conservative cabinet and do whatever it takes to secure a position as a fully fledged minister.
Many thanks to Oeillade for sharing the petition with us.