Nadhim Zahawi (born 2 June 1967) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010, after the retirement of previous MP John Maples. He chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kurdistan.
He is also the co-founder of the international internet-based market research firm YouGov of which he was Chief Executive until February 2010.
Early life and career
Zahawi was born on 2 June 1967 in Baghdad, to Kurdish parents. He fled aged 9 with his family to the UK from Iraq in 1976 during Saddam Hussein's early years in power.
Zahawi was educated at Ibstock Place School and at King's College School, at the time a boys-only independent school in Wimbledon, London, followed by University College London, where he studied Chemical Engineering, receiving a BSc.
Co-Founder of YouGov
Following a career as European Marketing Director for Smith & Brooks Ltd, Nadhim Zahawi co-founded YouGov with Stephan Shakespeare, a former spokesperson for Jeffrey Archer. Zahawi was YouGov's CEO from 2005 to 2010.
In 1991, Zahawi and fellow Kurd Broosk Saib were aides to Jeffrey Archer during Archer's "Simple Truth" campaign to help Kurdish victims of the Gulf War. Zahawi and Saib were nicknamed "Lemon kurd" and "Bean kurd" by Archer. 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.
Zahawi was elected as a Conservative councillor in Putney 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.
In 2010 Zahawi was selected by the local Conservative association for Stratford-on-Avon as a prospective parliamentary candidate in the 2010 general election.
In October 2013, he became a member of the Number 10 Policy Unit. 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 floatation at £3.30 and the Financial Times claimed that two investment banks had warned that it was underpriced. However Zahawi said the government had got its sums right and had to be sure that the remaining 40% of shares could be sold above the flotation price in future. When it was put to him that he might consider selling 60% of shareholdings in his own companies at a large discount, so that he can later sell the other 40% at the market rate, he replied "I'm afraid that this method only works when disposing of public assets. It would be ridiculous to expect any individual, no matter how outrageously wealthy they are, to suffer such a loss".
Zahawi is vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kurdistan Region in Iraq, which receives secretarial support from Gulf Keystone Petroleum International, an oil company of which Zahawi is Chief Strategy Officer. Concerns have been raised 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. 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. He backs Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.
Zahawi claimed for 2012/13 a total of £170,234 in expenses, ranking him the 130th highest out of 650 MPs. He explained in his local newspaper Stratford Herald that the "vast bulk" of his expenses was on staffing costs.
In November 2013 Zahawi "apologised unreservedly" after The Sunday Mirror reported that he had claimed £5,822 expenses for electricity for his horse riding school stables and a yard manager's mobile home. 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. An article in The Independent also drew attention to the number of legitimate but "trivial" items on Zahawi's expenses.
Zahawi's declarations in the "Register of Members' Interests" include (as of November 2015) the following employment and earnings: non-exec director of the recruitment company SThree (monthly salary £3333) 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, 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". 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. Clients of Zahawi include the research and consulting firm YouGov plc, of which he was founder and continues to be a registered shareholder. A former client, Afren Plc, an "independent exploration and production company in the oil and gas industry"; went bust in 2015.
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 a company called Berkford Investments Limited, which was 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.
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."
A keen horse rider and show jumper, Zahawi and his wife Lana run a riding school. He is a millionaire.
Due to Zahawi's birthplace being in Iraq, he is currently banned from entering the United States due to Donald Trump's executive order "Protecting the Nation From Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals", despite the fact that he does not hold Iraqi citizenship.
Zahawi won 'craziest parking ticket of the year' in 2004 for having got a ticket while he was in an ambulance.
In January 2011, Zahawi appeared in ITN News coverage of the Commons debate discussing the end of the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme. He was 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.