Nadhim Zahawi, the newly appointed chancellor, affirms his support for the prime minister.

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-06 11:38:23 : Megan Specia

The newly appointed chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zahawi, came to the defense of Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain as he made the rounds on the morning television circuit on Wednesday, only hours after succeeding the recently resigned Rishi Sunak.

Speaking to a number of British news outlets, Mr. Zahawi, who as chancellor serves as Britain’s top finance minister, repeatedly turned the focus back to his aim of tackling inflation, but he also threw his support behind the prime minister at a time when he desperately needs it.

Mr. Zahawi, speaking to LBC radio, said Mr. Johnson was “right to apologize” over his appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip, adding that the prime minister had to “make decisions literally at warp speed.”

“The right thing he did, in my view, was to come out and very, very openly say: ‘Look, with the benefit of hindsight, I made a mistake,’” Mr. Zahawi said.

Last week, Mr. Pincher resigned his position after admitting having been drunk at a private members’ club in London where, it was alleged, he groped two men.

Mr. Zahawi was pressed later Wednesday by the journalist Kay Burley on Sky News about why he chose to remain as part of Mr. Johnson’s government despite all of the criticism around his recent actions during the Pincher scandal.

“You don’t go into this job to have an easy life,” he said. “You make some tough decisions every day. And, sometimes, it’s easy to walk away, but actually, it’s much tougher to deliver for the country.”

When asked about speculation that he had threatened to resign if he were not appointed chancellor, one of the most senior positions in government, Mr. Zahawi denied the reports.

Mr. Zahawi, 55, is the fourth chancellor to take on the role in three years. He was born in Iraq in 1967, but he fled with his family to Britain in the 1970s when Saddam Hussein came to power. He reflected on that journey on Wednesday morning.

“The idea that you have to deliver for the country, I think, the country that has given me everything, given my family everything, is the right thing to do,” Mr. Zahawi said, but he acknowledged that the government would have “some big challenges ahead.”

Mr. Zahawi was previously the education secretary. Before that, he served as the vaccines minister during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, after rising through the ranks of the Conservative Party for the past decade.

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