William Hague rules out returning as Tory chairman
The former Tory leader, who now mainly works as a newspaper columnist and political commentator, said that he would not be returning to politics “in any shape or form” following speculation that he could be in line for the job.
It comes after Rishi Sunak sacked Mr Zahawi on Sunday following an ethics probe found he had breached the ministerial code over his tax affairs.
“Since I’ve seen reports of people placing bets on me being the new party chairman, please be aware that I will absolutely not be returning to politics in any shape or form, including that one” Mr Hague said on Twitter.
The Yorkshireman, who previously represented Mr Sunak’s seat of Richmond, last served in government as foreign secretary under David Cameron until 2014 after leading the party for four years between 1997 and 2001.
Downing Street on Monday resisted calls to reform the way that MPs are vetted for cabinet positions following Mr Zahawi’s sacking.
Steve Brine, chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said holding “confirmation” hearings after the appointment of Cabinet ministers could help increase scrutiny.
Former minister Mr Brine, discussing the sacking of ex-Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, said: “The way that ministers are appointed I think needs looking at.
“I do wonder whether there is more scrutiny on people appointed to the House of Lords or even, dare I say, to become chairman of the BBC… than there is for very senior Cabinet ministers.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “we always listen to the views of parliamentarians carefully” but “I’m not aware of any plans to take that approach”.
Beginning his fightback after the fiasco, Rishi Sunak stressed “integrity is important to me” and promised to take “whatever steps are necessary to restore the integrity back into politics”.
Mr Zahawi settled his £4.8 million tax dispute with HMRC while he was chancellor under Boris Johnson.
No 10 insists Mr Sunak was not aware of any “outstanding issues” when he appointed him party chairman after becoming Prime Minister in October.
Allies of Mr Zahawi claim the MP had lost his job after being given only limited time to make his case, with the Telegraph citing claims suggesting he was only given a 30-minute meeting with the independent adviser to defend himself.
Figures inside Downing Street were disputing claims from those around Mr Zahawi, insisting there had been two conversations with Sir Laurie.
Mr Sunak’s spokesman said: “We did not set any time limit for the adviser and he was free to carry out the investigation to establish the facts, and conclude his work when he felt he had done so.
“He was able to speak to whoever he wished to in that process and we’re confident he established the facts.”