Cabinet minister Michael Gove proudly boasted that ‘boring is back” when Rishi Sunak took charge at Downing Street at the end of October following months of turmoil.
The prime minister promised on his first day at No 10 to bring “integrity and accountability” to government, confident he could draw a line under the scandal-filled era of Boris Johnson.
Having vowed to stamp it out, sleaze is now mounting up outside Mr Sunak’s door.
Even the Conservatives’ favourite magazine, The Spectator, has declared that the Tories are “rolling in it” once again.
The Independent took a closer look at all the sleaze problems swirling around the prime minister only months after took office.
Nadhim Zahawi tax investigation
The Tory chairman faces a probe by the PM’s ethics adviser into whether he broke the ministerial code over his £5m tax settlement, after The Independent first revealed he had been subject to a HMRC investigation, but remains on in his cabinet role.
Mr Zahawi is understood to have paid a £1m penalty to settle the dispute related to the sale of YouGov shares held by an offshore company – claiming that HMRC had judged his tax “error” to have been “careless and not deliberate”.
But Mr Zahawi has not yet explained the precise nature of his careless error, when he first became aware of a problem with the HMRC, why he claimed he had been “smeared” when it was first reported and why legal threats were issued to The Independent and others.
Dominic Raab bullying claims
Mr Sunak launch an independent probe into the conduct of the deputy prime minister in November after he was subject to multiple allegations of bullying – including claims he left civil servants too scared to enter his office.
A total of formal eight complaints of bullying – denied by Mr Raab – have been made against him from his time at three different departments, according to No 10. But at least 24 civil servants are involved in these complaints, according to The Guardian.
Mr Sunak has reportedly read excerpts of some of the complaints before ordering the probe by top lawyer Adam Tolley KC. No 10 has given no indication how soon the inquiry will conclude.
Boris Johnson ties to BBC chairman
The public appointments watchdog is to investigate the appointment of BBC chairman Richard Sharp amid claims he helped Mr Johnson secure an £800,000 line of credit while he was at No 10.
The BBC chairman has denied any conflict of interest – but has admitted introducing Mr Johnson’s billionaire Canadian cousin Sam Blyth to cabinet secretary Simon Case before the wealthy relative acted as a guarantor of the credit line.
Mr Johnson said he was “ding-dang sure” Mr Sharp – a Tory donor who later attended a dinner with the then-PM and Mr Blyth at Chequers – knew nothing of his finances and dismissed the row as “a load of complete nonsense”.
Yet another investigation involving Mr Johnson. The former PM is preparing to face a televised grilling from MPs on the privileges committee about whether he lied to parliament about what he knew about Covid parties inside No 10.
The government now expects taxpayers to cover £222,000 in legal fees for Mr Johnson’s defence at the Partygate inquiry, expected to begin in March. The former Tory favourite could face a by-election in his Uxbridge and Ruislip seat, if he is found to have broken the rules and suspended for 10 days.
Gavin Williamson bullying probes
The ex-education secretary is facing two separate formal investigations – by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) and the Tory party – into claims that he bullied officials and a fellow MP.
Sir Gavin resigned as a cabinet minister in November after a series of allegations – including a claim he told a civil servant to “slit your throat”.
Former chief whip Wendy Morton is understood to have made a formal complaint after Mr Williamson reportedly claimed she had tried to “f*** us all over” over the lack of an invitation to the Queen’s funeral.
Sexual misconduct allegations
Julian Knight was suspended as a Tory MP in December following a report to police involving allegations of sexual assault. Mr Knight has strongly denied any wrongdoing and has accused the party of denying him a fair hearing.
Separately, last May, a male Tory MP was arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offences and was later bailed. Labour said it was a “shocking” he had not been suspended, despite the fact he has been asked to stay away from parliament.
David Warburton had the Tory whip withdrawn in April after allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use emerged. The Sunday Times reported two women have made formal complaints to parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) about his alleged harassment, which he denies.
It follows as series of other sexual misconduct scandals involving Tory MPs in recent years. Former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher quit his role in July after having had “far too much” to drink and allegedly groping two men.
Neil Parish quit his Tiverton and Honiton seat in May after being caught watching porn in the Commons. The Tory described it as a “moment of madness” and said it had happened accidentally after he had been for tractors.
Rob Roberts was stripped of the Tory whip last year after he was found he broke the sexual misconduct policy by making unwanted advances to a man.
Former Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for 18 months last year for groping a 15-year-old boy in 2008. And Ex-Tory MP Charlie Elphicke was jailed for two years in 2020 after being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.