Rishi Sunak has been a “remarkable force for good” in British politics, a Government minister has said as Labor continued to press for the Chancellor to come clean about his family’s tax affairs.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse acknowledged the disclosure that Mr Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, was “non domiciled” in the UK for tax purposes was “not ideal”.
However he said the Chancellor was a “smart, clever, committed politician” who had helped steer the economy through the worst of the pandemic.
His defense came after it emerged that Mr Sunak had ordered a Whitehall inquiry into who leaked details of Ms Murty’s tax status to the media triggering a furious political outcry.
For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was a matter of “basic fairness” that the Chancellor’s family should pay tax in the same way as everyone else and should not enjoy “special arrangements” to reduce their bills.
“I don’t think the Chancellor gets that.
“That raises real questions about his judgment,” she told BBC1’s Sunday Morning programme.
Ms Murty, who remains an Indian citizen, dramatically announced on Friday that she would now pay UK taxes on all her worldwide income as she did not want her tax status to be a distraction for her husband.
It has been estimated that her non dom status could have saved her £20 million in taxes on dividends from her shares in Infosys, an Indian IT company founded by her father.
Mr Malthouse said it was “not a brilliant time” for the details to come out when the country was struggling with a cost of living crisis, but said she had now “corrected” the situation.
With some Tory MPs questioning whether any hopes Mr Sunak harbored of becoming prime minister have been dashed by the disclosures, Mr Malthouse denied that his career was “toast”.
“Rishi Sunak has been a remarkable force for good in this country over the last two years.
“He put in place some incredible support schemes during the pandemic at enormous speed,” he said.
Ultimately, however, he said Mr Sunak’s own political future was of “secondary importance” to what happened to the UK economy.
“It is not ideal, but we all know when we sign up for this job that there is going to be rough times and smooth times,” he told the BBC.
“The key thing is that he remains committed to the job that he is doing which is to steer the British economy and its people through some very, very difficult and challenging moments.
“What happens to him the future will be of secondary importance to what happens to the country.”
There is likely to be relief among Mr Sunak’s allies at the way Mr Malthouse, a longstanding ally of Boris Johnson, spoke out in his support.
The Chancellor was reportedly unhappy at the failure of colleagues to come to his defense when the news broke last week.
He was already under pressure amid criticism that last month’s spring statement did little for those struggling on low incomes, leading to reports of tensions with No 10.
Meanwhile sources close to Mr Sunak have played down reports that he was moving his wife and two daughters out of Downing Street to escape the glare of the media.
The Sunday Times reported that removal vans arrived in the street on Saturday to take their belongings away.
One source said however they had always intended to spend more time in their west London home as their elder daughter, Krishna, entered her final term of primary school before moving on to secondary school.
Mr Sunak is still expected to stay in Downing Street during the week while joining them at weekends.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.