The newly minted chancellor of the exchequer has failed to rule out a snap election.
Quizzed over whether an early general election could take place, Nadhim Zahawi stressed the decision was a matter for the prime minister.
Speaking to LBC Radio, Zahawi explained: “The prime minister will make a decision on any general election. All I can say to you, my focus … is very much on making sure we rebuild the economy post the pandemic, the cost of the war in Ukraine, the illegal invasion of the Ukraine, people understand there is a cost to that.”
He went on: “Ultimately, what the polls say today is a snapshot of public opinion, very much based on seeing a divided party, in my view, that’s heartbreaking and wrong. We need to come together and deliver because they will judge us on outcomes, on what we’ve delivered for them in the second half of this Parliament.”
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Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed told TalkTv this morning that his party is “ready to fight” a general election should one be called.
Zahawi has also denied claims that he threatened to quit the Cabinet last night, should he not be promoted to No 11 following Rishi Sunak’s resignation.
Asked by Sky News whether he had considered quitting, he explained: “No, I am just saying to you in life that it is, having to take tough decisions as you do when I was in vaccines, in education, and now in the Treasury, there are no easy answers.
“The most important thing to remember is we have a task ahead of us to rebuild the economy, we have just come out from what is the equivalent of a world war.”
“I didn’t threaten to resign at all,” he continued.
Zahawi has appeared to deny that he took the job of chancellor to satisfy his personal ambition, and made what seems to have been a subtle criticism of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid who quit the Cabinet last night.
When quizzed over why he accepted the role he said: “You don’t go into this job to have an easy life. You make some tough decisions every day. And sometimes it is easy to walk away but actually it is much tougher to deliver for the country.”
As education secretary Zahawi asked the Treasury to grant teachers pay rises of up to 9 per cent in order to abate calls for strikes.
He told Sky News that he plans to uphold this request now he is in No 11, stating: “The pledge I will give teachers is we will do nine per cent for teachers that are starting in teaching this year, 7.7 per cent next year for them and senior teachers will get that five per cent that I have proposed and I will obviously look at the recommendation from the pay review bodies across the board.”
The move sparks questions about how the government might agree to lift wages for other public sector employees as inflation climbs.
When pressed over whether he could run for leadership of the Conservative party he stated firmly: “There is no vacancy.”
“First of all, I will be working very hard to make sure that this team continues to deliver. The prime minister is focused on delivery, delivery, delivery,” he continued.
Sky News also posed Zahawi the question of whether he thought Johnson is a “man of integrity”, to which he answered “I do… because he is determined to deliver for this country.”
More to follow