Partygate: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must quit – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

There was a time I could have kissed Rishi Sunak.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak get the beers in during a visit to Fourpure Brewery in London (Picture: Dan Kitwood/PA)
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak get the beers in during a visit to Fourpure Brewery in London (Picture: Dan Kitwood/PA)

At the start of the pandemic, when it was clear we were going to have to go into lockdown and nobody knew how the economy would keep going or where their next paycheque was coming from, I spent days working late into the night, fielding calls and emails from people in abject despair, on the verge of ruin.

Then Sunak announced the creation of the furlough scheme. He opened the doors of the Treasury and suddenly everyone could see a way forward. I thanked him in this column for it.

How long ago that seems now. The revelations that he, along with the Prime Minister, will be fined for lockdown breaches and about his wife’s tax status and his US residency have erased any goodwill that existed for the Chancellor among the public and consolidated the perception that with the Tories, it’s one rule for them, another for the rest of us.

Johnson and Sunak must now resign, of that there is no question but the financial dealings of the Chancellor and his wife bear further scrutiny.

Indeed the fact that Akshata Murthy has rescinded her non-domiciled tax status and will from now on pay UK taxes on income earned overseas is at least a partial admission that while she was playing by the letter of the law, she was perhaps not acting within its spirit.

Sunak was vehement in his defence of his wife. “She loves her country [India], as much as I love mine,” he exclaimed, in reference to her residency.

However, it’s since emerged that for the total duration of his tenure as a minister the Chancellor has held a Green Card entitling him to permanent residency of the United States, and requiring a declaration that you eventually intend to become a US citizen and make the States your permanent home. So perhaps voters are entitled to ask themselves how much that love is actually worth.

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Again, none of this is illegal, but it matters. It matters because this is the Chancellor who has raised everybody else’s taxes on 15 occasions since he took office but, through his partner, avoided some of the burden faced by the rest of us.

This is the man, who had been celebrated for his largesse in lockdown, only to be slammed for his miserly and insipid Spring Statement that offered no relief to anyone at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis.

At a time when he has just hammered workers with an uplift in National Insurance, people will notice that the principle breadwinner in his family, won’t have seen the same bite taken out of her income.

This is political strychnine for the Tories. On the eve of local authority elections, Scottish Liberal Democrats were already seeing people turning away from the blue team in droves as a result of the widespread lockdown law-breaking in Downing Street and fines arriving from the Met.

Now the Chancellor has hammered home the message once again. They weren’t making the sacrifices we were in lockdown, they aren’t feeling the pain we are in the cost-of-living crisis and it now transpires they may not have been paying their way through any of it.

It's one rule for them and another rule for us.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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