ICYMI: Nadhim Zahawi and Ukraine – this week’s five biggest stories
As journalists, we’re not in the business of lying, so we’ll come right out with it and tell you that the news was about as joyless as the weather this week.
Lots of bleak bits about politicians being politicians and a train which was going to stop in London before possibly not stopping in London but is now definitely stopping in London?
We won’t torture you with an ‘it’s Saturday’ spin, we’ll just stick to the job description and say it straight.
Don’t be the sod at the pub who doesn’t know what’s happening, read the news.
Here is the news.
A Tory may have toyed with the law (again)
Nadhim Zahawi has been accused of trying to dodge paying capital gains tax on a company sale worth more than £20 million.
The former chancellor of the exchequer reportedly had to pay an estimated £1.1 million fine and £3.7 million in back tax for when he sold shares in YouGov, the polling company he co-founded.
The politician on Monday said the HMRC accepted the error was ‘careless and not deliberate’.
He has not revealed any details about the reported fine, sticking to the type of inoffensive vagueness Westminster loves.
He said he chose to ‘settle the matter and pay what they said was due, which was the right thing to do’.
Mr Zahawi, who is currently the Tory Party chairman, explained: ‘When we set [YouGov] up, I didn’t have the money or the expertise to go it alone. So I asked my father to help.
‘In the process, he took founder shares in the business in exchange for some capital and his invaluable guidance.
‘Twenty one years later, when I was being appointed chancellor of the exchequer, questions were being raised about my tax affairs. I discussed this with the Cabinet Office at the time.
‘Following discussions with HMRC, they agreed that my father was entitled to founder shares in YouGov, though they disagreed about the exact allocation. They concluded that this was a “careless and not deliberate” error.
‘So that I could focus on my life as a public servant, I chose to settle the matter and pay what they said was due, which was the right thing to do.
Number 10 has confirmed Rishi Sunak did not know about the tax penalty when he appointed Mr Zahawi to either of his prominent roles.
The PM has faced calls to sack Mr Zahawi, with Labour calling him ‘hopelessly weak’ for refusing to do so.
But Mr Sunak has ordered an investigation, saying ‘clearly in this case there are questions that need answering’.
He added: ‘I think it is important we do these things professionally. Integrity and accountability is really important to me, but it’s also important we do these things properly.’
TL;DR: Petition for the Politician’s Handbook on How to Answer Vaguely to be accompanied by a copy of the country’s laws?
Nato sent tanks to Ukraine
The west is sending dozens of heavy weapons to help Ukraine fight off Russia’s invasion.
World leaders have been stuck in diplomatic deadlock for weeks over whether to answer Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for tanks to take back seized land.
The UK was the first country to promise its Challenger 2 tanks and the US and Germany quickly followed.
Joe Biden promised the US would contribute 31 Abrams tanks, saying the commitment was ‘further evidence of the US’s enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and its confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces’.
He added: Russian President Vladimir ‘Putin expected Europe and the United State to weaken our resolve’, Biden said. ‘He was wrong. He was wrong. He was wrong in the beginning and he continues to be wrong. We are united.’
Germany has been reluctant to send over their tanks unless the US also agreed to do so. The two countries announced their support within a day of each other.
Berlin will send at least 14 Leopard 2 tanks, marking the first time German tanks will be used on the battlefield in Europe since World War Two.
Germany’s green light will mean countries which have their own German tanks, such as Poland, can send over help as well.
They were previously limited by Germany’s laws which require buyers of its tanks to seek approval for re-export.
Some officials were worried sending tanks could escalate the conflict and directly involve Nato.
The Kremlin hit back at both nations. A spokesperson said Germany’s decision would ‘bring nothing good’ and leave ‘a lasting mark’ on relations with Russia.
Russia’s ambassador to the US said their decision was ‘another blatant provocation’.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russia is planning a fresh offensive, as he said sending tanks to Ukraine will make a ‘big difference’ to the country’s ability to win the war.
‘This will help them repel Russian offensives, to help them to be able to retake territory, liberate more Ukrainian lands and to win this war to prevail as a sovereign independent nation,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
TL;DR: It’s giving group project.
Man arrested for allegedly assaulting Matt Hancock
Geza Tarjanyi, 61, filmed himself following the former health secretary on the Tube and calling him a ‘murderer’.
Mr Hancock was approached as he walked through Westminster station at rush hour.
The politician was accompanied by a London Underground worker, who called for calm during the footage.
The politician then sat down as the carriage was informed of his presence.
At one point, Mr Hancock tells the man filming he is being ‘aggressive’.
Tarjanyi, from Leyland in Lancashire, has been charged with common assault and two public order offences. He will appear in court next month.
In case you forgot why someone would be angry at Mr Hancock, he was forced to resign after CCTV image showed him kissing an adviser in his office, in breach of his own social distancing guidance.
In the weirdest PR stint ever, Mr Hancock then flew to the Australian jungle to appear on the reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!.
He even managed to win some sympathy from TV voters and ended up coming third.
Metro.co.uk would like to do some observant reporting and point you to the fact that there is actually nothing more British than all the commuters in the clip just pretending the altercation was not happening.
TL;DR: Matt Hancock is the content gift that just keeps on giving.
The UK is complicating its plan to build infrastructure (shock)
This week saw questions raised about whether HS2 would reach central London or not.
The Sun reported HS2 may now not run to Euston until 2038, or the central London end will be scrapped completely and the line will instead terminate at Old Oak Common in west London.
It was also suggested the entire project may be delayed by two or five years.
The scaling-back would mean the new lines from Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds stop at a new hub in Old Oak Common, five miles away from Euston.
Passengers would have to change onto the new Elizabeth line to get in to central London.
A Department for Transport spokesperson would not confirm this and said: ‘The Government remains committed to delivering HS2 to Manchester, as confirmed in the autumn statement.’
But chancellor Jeremy Hunt came out on Friday to reassure the country HS2 will definitely reach London.
He said he could not see ‘any conceivable circumstances’ in which its flagship rail project failed to terminate at its planned terminus in the heart of the capital at Euston station.
He added: ‘We have not got a good record in this country of delivering complex, expensive infrastructure quickly, but I’m incredibly proud that, for the first time in this last decade, under a Conservative government, we have shovels in the ground building HS2 and we’re going to make it happen.’
Potential journey times
Journey times are set to be drastically reduced if HS2 does happen:
- Birmingham to London: Currently one hour and 21 minutes, reduced to 49 minutes
- Birmingham to Manchester: Currently one hour and 28 minutes, reduced to 41 minutes
- Manchester to London: Currently two hours and seven minutes, reduced to one hour and 11 minutes
But Labour peer Lord Berkeley, who was deputy chair of a government-commissioned review into HS2 in 2019, has called for the entire project to be scrapped.
He said money would be ‘much better spent on improving the railway lines in the North, East and West, than going to London a bit quicker’.
HS2 is the Government’s plan to connect half the UK’s population – some 30 million people – with high speed state-of-the art trains.
TL;DR: All aboard the delay express.
A curry house explained that they had not reincarnated anyone’s dead husband
Spice Cottage, in Chichester, West Sussex, found itself in the middle of a rather odd online storm this week.
They posted a fairly standard promotional video, showing their ‘new mood for 2023’ with some happy customers chatting and eating at their tables.
But widow Lucy Watson was adamant her husband Harry Doherty can be seen in the clip.
This wouldn’t be newsworthy, except for the fact that he died in 2014.
She told MailOnline: ‘The moment I saw the thing I thought “Oh my God – that’s Harry”. It was so instant. I didn’t even have to think. He’d be eating a chicken korma because that’s all he ever ate.
‘There was no doubt in my mind it was my husband. I couldn’t pause the thing so I had to replay it about 30 times and each time I was surer and surer.’
She believes her husband can be seen having dinner with his son.
The manager of the Spice Cottage, Bodrul Islam, came out on Wednesday to say the footage was recorded in the second week of January.
He said: ‘The refurbishment was completed in early January 2023 and the promotional video highlights these changes.
‘Before January 2023, all of our tables were covered by white and red cloths, henceforth it is evident this footage is recent.
‘This is a very unusual situation and we hope this clarifies any confusion.’
TL;DR: Uhm, what Bodrul said – this is a very unusual situation.
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