Philp back in the spotlight to ‘defend’ Zahawi’s £27m tax issue

Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on Croydon’s very own comeback kid, wheeled out for the media round once more

Job’s a good ‘un: tax-dodging Tory Nadhim Zahawi after hearing the news he was to be defended by… Croydon South MP Chris Philp

Three months on the naughty step. Almost long enough to get a bad case of piles. But then Westminster always does have a way of finding something that is a right pain in the…

This week Chris Philp, Westminster Tories’ favourite punch bag, was back doing the round of ministerial broadcast interviews, sent out by his boss Rishi Sunak to do what he is best at: defend the indefensible, and doing it spectacularly badly.

Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, was twice spurned in the clusterfuck that was Liz Truss’s interregnum as Prime Minister last autumn. First he was sacked as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a job he had clung on to for a mere 38 days… barely long enough to have completed the induction sessions. But it did get him in the Guinness Book of Records.

And then, after Truss demoted him to the government backwater of Paymaster General, Croydon’s only Tory MP got dumped from that post, too, when Sunak moved into No10. Philp lasted 11 days in that job, for anyone who is counting.

The latest consolation job Philp has been doing, since October 26 (so relative stability compared to what had gone before), is as a junior minister at the Home Office for policing.

But what had been increasingly noticeable, if you notice the absence of things, is that Croydon’s third most senior Tory – after m’Luds Barwell and Bowness – had been a conspicuous absentee from the television and radio studios of the nation.

Every time that Boris Johnson’s government was in trouble and there was a need for someone, anyone, to put the case for the lying, philandering, money-grabbing buffoon and his cabinet, Philp would be there, quicker than any TV producer could say “Action!”.

Yet in the first three months of the Sunak administration, it seemed that Philp, after all his enthusiastic cheer-leading for KamiKwasi Kwarteng and The Worst Budget In The History Of Mankind, was deemed no longer the acceptable face of the Conservative government.

Until this week and Nadhim Zahawi’s dodgy tax affairs and Boris Johnson’s loan arranger.

So things must be desperate.

Because, as Inside Croydon’s loyal reader knows only too well, in his entire time as an MP, millionaire Philp has never been completely transparent about his own tax affairs, refusing to publish his returns despite his holding significant interests in several private companies.

But when Sunak and Zahawi, the former Chancellor – 63 days, so one of the longer-lasting government appointments of 2022 – needed someone to do a bit of media fire-fighting this week, it was Philp who they determined was best qualified for the task. There is a strong possibility that he was the only one available.

Certainly, that’s the possibility raised by one of the senior members of the parliamentary press pack.

“When all else seems lost. At least Rishi Sunak will always have a Chris Philp,” John Crace, the Grauniad’s parliamentary sketch writer, noted yesterday.

“When they realised Nadhim Zahawi was not going to be fired and that Richard Sharp was not going to resign, most ministers ran for the hills. Switched off their phones. Hid under the duvet. Refused to answer the door. Just in case they were asked to go out on Tuesday’s media round. They had their pride – in a few cases, their self-worth – to consider.

Sickening: John Crace should be banned from baiting Philp. It’s not fair, and it’s far too easy

“But not Philp.”

Crace describes Philp as “a man who has never passed a pile of cold sick he wasn’t tempted to eat”, and as someone “who would do anything – anything – to curry favour with the boss class”.

Crace said of the Hon Member for Croydon South, “Either his short-term memory is completely shot and he has no recollection of his past failures or he genuinely doesn’t care. Being humiliated on national TV and radio is a badge of honour.”

And: “By Philp’s standards, Tuesday was a total success. One disaster after another. His kind of day.

“It turned out that saying he knew nothing about Zahawi’s tax affairs to everyone who asked didn’t close down the conversation. Rather it opened it up. How come he hadn’t gone out of his way to find out? To get the killer piece of information from No10 that proved Nadhim hadn’t failed to declare £27million… hadn’t paid a tax penalty and hadn’t tried to benefit from an offshore account?

“Chris smiled sheepishly. He was sure Zahawi was just an everyday-kinda-guy. Someone who had just got a bit confused by his tax return. They were tricky forms. And if he had made a mistake it was just carelessness. Not negligence as the HMRC website defined carelessness. There was a difference. There was negligent carelessness. That was bad. And there was careless carelessness. That was OK. That’s the one Zahawi was guilty of. Not that he was guilty of anything. Natch.”

Here in Croydon, the local Labour Party keeps kidding itself that they actually have a chance of overturning the  Tories’ 12,000 majority in Croydon South at the next General Election – a possibility only based on national opinion polls, without taking into account the sheer toxicity of the “Croydon Factor”.

And then Philp pops up on the tellybox again, and you’re left to wonder how anybody, even the staunchest of true blue Tories, can ever bring themselves to put an X in a box alongside his name. This week will have raised that question with Croydon’s Tories once again.

Read more: ‘The Nose in Search of a Bum’ sniffs out new government job
Read more: Uber for Philp! Croydon MP blamed for disastrous Tory tax cut
Read more: A bad week for Tory MP just got very much worse for Croydon
Read more: ‘Rabbit hutch’ flats and the Chief Secretary: Philp’s conflicts

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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3 Responses to Philp back in the spotlight to ‘defend’ Zahawi’s £27m tax issue

  1. Philp’s current job is defending the indefensible. He’s the Conservatives’ Chemical Ali, a rent a gob with no pride or integrity

  2. That wooden head is going to need some sandpaper to take the dents out soon. There is only so much punishment that this government’s Aunt Sally can take.

  3. Ian Kierens says:

    A good team always has a player that takes one for the team. But they usually take it in turns. Philp has taken so many so fast, his proctologist must be in deep despair and by now feel it is beyond salvage. Definitely a charitable case for rubber rings if ever there was one.

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