Nadhim Zahawi has denied he threatened to resign from Boris Johnson’s cabinet amid a tussle for the role as chancellor and also hinted a planned rise in corporation tax may be axed.
The remarks from the newly appointed chancellor come as the prime minister clings to power after the twin resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, alongside a slew of junior aides.
In his first comments since being appointed chancellor, Mr Zahawi rejected reports he threatened to quit the cabinet unless promoted to chancellor, saying: “No I didn’t threaten to resign at all”.
Put to him that Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, was reportedly in line for the role as chancellor, and Mr Zahawi had said he would step down if he did not get the job, he told Sky News: “That is not true”.
“This is a team game, you play for the team, you deliver for the nation. My focus has to be about delivery,” he added.
“Sometimes walking away may give you some respite — dare I say it — but the idea you have to deliver for the country, the country that has given me everything, is the right thing to do.”
Facing a bleak economic outlook, Mr Zahawi he wanted to get record-level inflation under control, insisting the government would be “really careful” about public sector pay and inflation isn’t “fuelled”.
Last year, his predecessor Mr Sunak announced corporation tax would rise to 25 per cent from April 2023 — from a current rate of 19 per cent.
Asked for his views on the planned rise, Mr Zahawi signalled the policy could be abandoned. “I will look at everything,” he said.
The new chancellor added: “There’s nothing off the table. I want to be one of the most competitive countries in the world for investment.
“I know that boards around the world where they make investment decisions… the one tax they can compare globally is corporation tax and I want to make sure we are as competitive as we can be whilst maintaining fiscal discipline.”
But the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, accused the new chancellor of acting in his own interest and claimed he is propping up a “failing prime minister”.
“A new Tory chancellor appointed,” she said. “Our country and our economy needs leaders that will act in our best interests. It’s clear that the prime minister and chancellor are only acting in theirs,” she said.