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Nadhim Zahawi quietly omits his links to Jeffrey Archer

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The multimillionaire wannabe PM Nadhim Zahawi is regularly advised by Jeffrey Archer, whispered a Tory snout. Boris Johnson’s emergency Chancellor and the Tory peer, who was jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice, are old business partners and political allies. Iraqi-born Zahawi, nicknamed “Lemon Kurd” by Archer, was an aide to the one-time Tory deputy chair and ill-fated London mayoral candidate during Archer’s controversial 1991 Simple Truth concert to raise funds for Kurdish refugees. Groups subsequently complained that they saw very little of the £57m reputedly collected; a KPMG investigation found that the figure couldn’t be verified. Rishi Sunak airbrushes £43,335-a-year Winchester College from his life story. Zahawi omits the Archer link.

Penny Mordaunt launched into choppy waters when the Paralympian Jonnie Peacock demanded to be edited out of her campaign video. The trade minister’s call for governing to be “less about the leader and a lot more about the ship” isn’t as selfless as it first sounded. The Portsmouth North MP, who served 85 days as the first female defence secretary, was named after the Royal Navy warship HMS Penelope. The Tory leadership battle’s HMS Penny will hope to fare better than her namesake. The Arethusa-class cruiser was sunk by a German U-boat in 1944 with great loss of life.

[ See also: Rishi Sunak takes the lead, but Penny Mordaunt has the most to celebrate ]

Tory Brextremists are turning on each other as hardman Steve Baker, who backed Suella Braverman, accuses Jacob Rees-Mogg of jeopardising the goals of the right-whinge European Research Group by flirting with 2016 Remainer Liz Truss to stop Rishi Sunak. My snout, who knew the increasingly reactionary Suella de Vil in days past, whispered that the Attorney General may no more genuinely believe much of the nonsense she now spouts than Brussels-bashing Truss.

Picket-line friendly Angela Rayner’s star turns continue at labour movement gatherings. Keir Starmer’s name was booed at the Durham Miners’ Gala yet his deputy was loudly cheered on the fringe. She endeared herself to classroom warriors by inserting “comrades” as teachers’ union NASUWT headmaster Patrick Roach greeted “friends and colleagues”. Rayner is described by one admirer as a punchier John Prescott in fancy shoes.

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Asked by the Guardian about an encounter with an Uber lobbyist seven years ago in Germany, the former culture minister Ed Vaizey hailed his old department to refresh a foggy memory. Frustrated at no information turning up, the Tory peer rang the permanent secretary. The culture department had emailed details to an MP’s address abandoned three years ago when Vaizey quit elected politics. Ignorant Nadine Dorries isn’t the ministry’s only incompetent.

Word on the Tory side is that a front-runner to be PM was the subject of a complaint after they asked a private protection officer to bring them official papers in the bath. Not even a full bottle of bubble bath would justify a cover-up.

[ See also: Andrew Marr – The Tories’ new nightmare ]

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This article appears in the 13 Jul 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The Selfish Giant