Nadhim Zahawi

Nadhim Zahawi (Arabic: ناظم الزهاوي‎, romanizedNāẓim az-Zahāwī; born 2 June 1967) is a British-Kurdish politician who has served as Secretary of State for Education since September 2021. A member of the Conservative Party, he has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010 and previously served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Industry from 2019 to 2021 and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment from 2020 to 2021.

Nadhim Zahawi

Official portrait of Nadhim Zahawi MP crop 2.jpg
Zahawi in 2020
Secretary of State for Education
Assumed office
15 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byGavin Williamson
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment
In office
28 November 2020 – 15 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byMaggie Throup
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Industry
In office
26 July 2019 – 15 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byAndrew Stephenson
Succeeded byLee Rowley
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
In office
9 January 2018 – 25 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byRobert Goodwill
Succeeded byKemi Badenoch
Member of Parliament
for Stratford-on-Avon
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byJohn Maples
Majority19,972 (36.6%)
Personal details
Born (1967-06-02) 2 June 1967 (age 54)
Baghdad, Iraqi Republic
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Lana Zahawi
Alma materUniversity College London
ProfessionChemical Engineering

Born in Baghdad, Zahawi was co-founder of international Internet-based market research firm YouGov of which he was chief executive until February 2010 and was, until January 2018, chief strategy officer for Gulf Keystone Petroleum. After the retirement of previous Conservative MP John Maples, he was elected for Stratford-upon-Avon at the 2010 general election.

Zahawi joined Theresa May's government as Minister for Children and Families in the 2018 cabinet reshuffle. Following Boris Johnson's appointment as Prime Minister, he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Industry, and in 2020 he was given additional responsibility for the COVID-19 vaccination programme as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment. In the 2021 cabinet reshuffle he was promoted to Johnson's cabinet as Secretary of State for Education.

Early life and careerEdit

Zahawi was born on 2 June 1967 in Baghdad to Iraqi Kurdish parents.[1] At the age of nine, he and his family fled to the UK from Iraq in 1976, during Saddam Hussein's early years in power.[2]

Zahawi was originally educated at Holland Park School,[3] before moving to Ibstock Place School and then at King's College School, an independent school in Wimbledon, London, followed by University College London, where he studied Chemical Engineering, receiving a BSc.[4]


Following a career as European Marketing Director for Smith & Brooks Ltd, Zahawi co-founded YouGov with Stephan Shakespeare, a former spokesperson for Jeffrey Archer. Zahawi was YouGov's CEO from 2005 to 2010.[1]

Political careerEdit

Early political careerEdit

In 1991, Zahawi and fellow Kurd Broosk Saib were aides to Jeffrey Archer during Archer's controversial "Simple Truth" campaign to help Kurdish victims of the Gulf War. Zahawi and Saib were nicknamed "Lemon kurd" and "Bean kurd" by Archer.[5] In 1994 Archer helped campaign for Zahawi for a seat on Wandsworth council. Zahawi also ran Archer's unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of London in 1998.[6]

Zahawi was elected as a Conservative councillor in Putney[7] in the London Borough of Wandsworth, serving three terms from 1994 to 2006, and stood as a parliamentary candidate at Erith and Thamesmead in 1997, coming second to Labour.[8]

Member of ParliamentEdit

In 2010 Zahawi was selected by the local Conservative association for Stratford-on-Avon as a prospective parliamentary candidate in the 2010 general election and he was elected.[9] He was subsequently re-elected in 2015, 2017 and 2019.[9]

In October 2013, he became a member of the Number 10 Policy Unit.[10] Later in October, Zahawi and fellow member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee interviewed Lazard, the Government's independent adviser on the sale of Royal Mail. Shares quickly rose to £5 following flotation at £3.30 and the Financial Times claimed that two investment banks had warned that it was underpriced.[11]

Zahawi is vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kurdistan Region in Iraq,[12] which receives secretarial support from Gulf Keystone Petroleum International, an oil company of which Zahawi is Chief Strategy Officer.[13] Concerns have been raised[by whom?] about how MPs' independence might be compromised by such links between APPGs and private companies, and specifically about how Zahawi's connections with the oil industry affect his role as MP.[14][15][16] Zahawi has been co-chair or vice-chair of this APPG since it was established in 2008/9, alongside other MPs including Meg Munn and Jason McCartney.[citation needed]

During the time he was on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee he was also chairman of the secretive trans-Atlantic group Le Cercle but did not declare his membership.[17] In 2019 a member of his staff was listed as an administor of Le Cercle in the Parliamentary Register of interests.[18]

In January 2016, the Labour Party unsuccessfully proposed an amendment in Parliament that would have required private landlords to make their homes "fit for human habitation". According to Parliament's register of interests, Zahawi was one of 72 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment who derived an income from renting out property. The Conservative Government responded to the amendment that they believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.[19]

Zahawi and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in 2019

He backed Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, arguing that the European Union will never be willing to change its rules and that the United Kingdom should take back control over a variety of issues.[20][21]

Following the 2018 cabinet reshuffle, Zahawi was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education. On 26 July 2019 he became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry.

In October 2020, Zahawi was accused by Labour MP Tulip Siddiq of misleadingly suggesting that research from a holiday food and activities club pilot scheme had shown parents "actually prefer to pay a modest amount, £1 or £2", instead of receiving free school meals, in a debate over extending free school meals during school holidays.[22]

He became the first ever Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment in November 2020.[23] In December 2020, Zahawi stated that over 137,000 people in the UK had received a coronavirus vaccine in the first week of the UK's vaccination programme, with Zahawi describing it as a "really good start".[24][25] A 90-year-old woman from the UK became the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on 8 December 2020.[26] On 14 February 2021, Zahawi said that at least 15 million people in the UK have had their first coronavirus vaccine.[27]

In February 2021, Zahawi said there were no plans to introduce vaccine passports to travel abroad, describing them as "discriminatory". He said people could talk to their doctor if they needed written evidence to travel.[28][29] In July 2021, the government announced plans to introduce domestic COVID-19 vaccine passports from September as a condition of entry to nightclubs and some other venues with large crowds.[30]

On 15 September 2021 Zahawi became Secretary of State for Education in a cabinet reshuffle, replacing Gavin Williamson.[31]


Zahawi claimed for 2012/13 a total of £170,234 in expenses, ranking him the 130th highest out of 650 MPs.[32] He explained in his local newspaper Stratford Herald that the "vast bulk" of his expenses was on staffing costs.[33]

In November 2013 Zahawi "apologised unreservedly" after The Sunday Mirror reported that he had claimed £5,822 expenses for electricity for his riding school stables and a yard manager's mobile home.[34] Zahawi said the mistake arose because he received a single bill covering both a meter in the stables and one in his house. He would repay the money though the actual overcharge was £4,000.[35] An article in The Independent also drew attention to the large number of legitimate items on Zahawi's expenses.[36]

Registered interestsEdit

Zahawi's various roles resulted in him reportedly being the second highest earning MP in the UK as of 2017.[37] His declarations in the "Register of Members' Interests" included (as of November 2015)[13] the following employment and earnings: non-executive director of the recruitment company SThree (monthly salary £3,333) and Chief Strategy Officer of Gulf Keystone Ltd, an Iraqi oil company (monthly salary of £20,125). He is also a 50% shareholder of Zahawi and Zahawi Ltd., and holds shares in SThree and YouGov. In the Register of Members' Interests of 9 February 2015,[38] he also declared shares in Genel Energy plc, an Anglo-Turkish exploration and production company within the oil and gas industry. His declared property interests are: "Residential property and 31 acres of land in Warwickshire, with stables run as a livery yard by Zahawi and Zahawi Ltd; residential buy-to-let property in London, divided into three flats; a house in London (Putney), rented out from 30 June 2015; and commercial property in Surrey, purchased on 29 September 2015 and rented out through Zahawi & Zahawi Ltd".[citation needed]

Zahawi & Zahawi Ltd is a business consultancy company registered with Companies House as "other business support service activities", with its registered address at the same Warwickshire stables.[39] Clients of Zahawi include the research and consulting firm YouGov plc, of which he was founder and continues to be a registered shareholder.[citation needed]

The Guardian reported in early 2017 that Zahawi had spent £25m buying property around London, for both personal and commercial use.[40] Zahawi said in response that "My first priority, before anything else, is my constituency work and I would never, or have never, let anything get in the way of this."[40]

Constituency homeEdit

In November 2013 it was reported by the Birmingham Mail newspaper that in May 2011 (one year after he became an MP) Nadhim Zahawi used as a mortgage lender Berkford Investments Limited, based in the low-tax British overseas territory of Gibraltar, to finance the purchase of his constituency home 'Oakland' riding stables estate (worth at the time £875,000) in Upper Tysoe, near Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire.[41]

Berkford Investments Limited is managed by T&T Management Services Limited, which advertises its wealth management services as 'setting up and administering trusts to help the wealthy minimise or avoid property taxes'. Zahawi responded to the news story by saying: "I did pay stamp duty on my property in Tysoe and have always paid stamp duty on my property purchases. I fully support the 2012 budget and all budgets of this government. I purchased my property in Tysoe with a mortgage from a Gibraltar company. This fact and the details involved are fully declared on the Land Registry and to suggest it is in any way hidden would be factually incorrect. Equally, to suggest that in any way I am using offshore to reduce my tax burden is entirely incorrect."[41]

Personal lifeEdit

A keen rider and show jumper, Zahawi and his wife Lana own and run a riding school.[42] Zahawi won 'craziest parking ticket of the year' in 2004 for having got a ticket while he was in an ambulance.[43] In January 2011, Zahawi appeared in the Commons debate discussing the end of the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme wearing a musical tie which proceeded to play during his contribution. The Deputy Speaker advised him to be more select when choosing ties to avoid a musical accompaniment to debate in the chamber.[44]

US travel banEdit

Following former US President Trump's executive order that banned travellers from a number of Middle Eastern states, Zahawi reported that, despite being a British citizen, he was unable to enter the United States, as he was born in Baghdad, Iraq.[45] The ban also affected his wife.[45] According to a media report, this prevented Zahawi from visiting his children attending college in the US.[46]

Zahawi spoke out against the policy and urged that the UK should not turn a blind eye to it.[46] He also argued that the travel ban, and Prime Minister Theresa May's failure to condemn it, only fuelled support for Islamic State in Iraq and other countries.[46]

Attendance at a Presidents Club charity dinnerEdit

In late January 2018, it was reported in the media that Zahawi was one of the attendees at a men-only dinner event organised by the Presidents Club at the Dorchester Hotel in London.[47] Media reports alleged that female hostesses were subjected to sexual harassment and incidents of groping and inappropriate touch.[48] Following the revelations of his attendance at the event, Zahawi posted a tweet condemning such behaviour and stated that he felt uncomfortable at what he saw happening. He has also stated that he will never attend such a men-only event again.[49] In response, opposition politicians, including the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner, called for Zahawi to step down from his position as Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department of Education as he did not report his concerns about unlawful behaviour at the event to the police and because he had attended the event before on several occasions.[50][51]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "About Nadhim". Zahawi. 6 May 2010. Archived from the original on 26 April 2010.
  2. ^ Merrick, Jane (27 September 2014). "Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10". The Independent. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Zahawi, Nadhim, (born 2 June 1967), MP (C) Stratford-on-Avon, since 2010; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, since 2019." WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 1 Dec. 2009 (Subscription required.)
  5. ^ Sengupta, Kim (5 August 2001). "Jeffrey Archer said he raised £57m. But the Kurds say they got only £250,000". The Independent.
  6. ^ "In the City". Private Eye. London: Pressdram Ltd (1265): 8. 25 June 2010.
  7. ^ "Nadhim Zahawi". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  8. ^ "VOTE 2001: Erith and Thamesmead". BBC News. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b Smith, Chris (28 April 2017). "Tories re-select all three south Warwickshire candidates". Stratford Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  10. ^ Isabel Hardman (15 October 2013). "New Number 10 policy board announced". The Spectator. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Royal Mail 'underpriced, two investment banks warned'". BBC News. 19 October 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  12. ^ "House of Commons – Register of All-Party Groups as at 30 July 2015 : Kurdistan Region in Iraq". Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  13. ^ a b "TheyWorkForYou". Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Kurdistan delegation led by millionaire Tory raises questions". The Independent. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  15. ^ "Corporate funding of all‑party groups 'next big scandal' after huge". The Independent. 18 May 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  16. ^ "Slick work brings in the cash for Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi – Diary". The Independent. 11 November 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  17. ^ Johnston, John (22 July 2019). "EXCL Top Tories face questions over links to secretive foreign affairs group". PoliticsHome. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  18. ^ "House of Commons - Register Of Interests Of Members' Secretaries And Research Assistants as at 18 October 2019: D'Ambra, L to Henderson, N". Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  19. ^ "Tories vote down law requiring landlords make their homes fit for human habitation". Independent. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  20. ^ "Nadhim Zahawi MP: Why I have decided to vote for Britain to leave the EU". Conservative Home. 22 February 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  21. ^ "We All Know What Brexit Means". HuffPost UK. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  22. ^ Whittaker, Freddie (22 October 2020). "No evidence for claim parents prefer to pay for meals". Schools Week.
  23. ^ "Restrictions eased once 'top 4 cohorts' protected". BBC News. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  24. ^ "Coronavirus vaccine: 137,000 people in UK get COVID jab in first week". Sky News. 16 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Covid vaccine: More than 130,000 vaccinated in UK in first week". BBC News. 16 December 2020.
  26. ^ "Covid-19 vaccine: First person receives Pfizer jab in UK". BBC News. 8 December 2020.
  27. ^ "Covid-19: More than 15 million in UK have first vaccine jab - Nadhim Zahawi". BBC News. 14 February 2021.
  28. ^ "Covid: Minister rules out vaccine passports in UK". BBC News. 7 February 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  29. ^ "Nadhim Zahawi: UK has no plans to introduce Covid vaccine passports – video". The Guardian. 7 February 2021. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  30. ^ "Covid: Vaccine passport plan for nightclubs 'concerning'". BBC News. 20 July 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  31. ^ "Nadhim Zahawi announced as education secretary". BBC News. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  32. ^ Wilson, Matt (17 September 2013). "Stratford MP explains his £170,000 expenses". Stratford Herald. Archived from the original on 4 February 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  33. ^ Zahawi, Nadhim (7 November 2013). "Exclusive: Nadhim Zahawi - my parliamentary expenses explained". Stratford Herald. Archived from the original on 29 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  34. ^ "Local CAB drops MP as meeting chair after expenses scandal". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  35. ^ "Stratford on Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi repays expenses". BBC News. 10 November 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  36. ^ Adam Withnall (11 November 2013). "Every little helps Nadhim Zahawi: MP who claimed most on energy bills also received 31p for paperclips". The Independent. London. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  37. ^ "The richest MPs in Britain based on income". Business Insider. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  38. ^ "House of Commons – The Register of Members' Financial Interests (9th February 2015) – Part 1: ZAHAWI, Nadhim". Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  39. ^ "ZAHAWI & ZAHAWI LTD – Overview (free company information from Companies House)". Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  40. ^ a b Watt, Holly (3 January 2017). "Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi owns property worth more than £25m". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  41. ^ a b Reid, Les (23 November 2013). "Warwickshire Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi used firm in tax haven to buy his £1m home". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  42. ^ Riley-Smith, Ben (10 November 2013). "Millionaire Tory MP claimed expenses to heat stables". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  43. ^ Essen, Yvette (5 June 2006). "Market profile: Nadhim Zahawi". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  44. ^ "MP's tie too loud for Parliament". ITN video clip. 20 January 2011.
  45. ^ a b "Tory MP reveals he is banned from US under Trump's Muslim ban". The Independent. 28 January 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  46. ^ a b c "Donald Trump's Muslim ban prevents Iraqi-born British MP from visiting his children". The Independent. 29 January 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  47. ^ Davies, Rob; Weaver, Matthew; Stewart, Heather (24 January 2018). "Presidents Club to close down after claims of harassment at 'hostess' gala". The Guardian.
  48. ^ Marriage, Madison (23 January 2018). "Men Only: Inside the charity fundraiser where hostesses are put on show". Financial Times.
  49. ^ "Nadhim Zahawi on Twitter".
  50. ^ "Scandal-hit dinner organiser quits post". BBC News. 30 April 2018.
  51. ^ "Pressure mounting on children's minister over attendance at men-only dinner". 24 January 2018.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Maples
Member of Parliament
for Stratford-on-Avon

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Goodwill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
Succeeded by
Kemi Badenoch
Preceded by
Andrew Stephenson
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Industry
Succeeded by
Position established Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Gavin Williamson
Secretary of State for Education