The race for No.10 is already mired in claims of affairs and money laundering, writes GLEN OWEN

That didn’t take long! The race for No.10 is already mired in claims of affairs and money laundering… and guess which master of the dark arts is already dripping in the poison, writes GLEN OWEN

It is already being called the ‘dirtiest Tory leadership race in history’, with wild stories about prostitutes, affairs and money laundering being traded on the ‘dark web’ of Westminster gossip.

A member of one leading candidate’s campaign team is even said to have held a secret meeting with a Labour official to pass on information about their rivals.

The bitterness surrounding Boris Johnson‘s astonishing ejection from office has seeped into the contest to succeed him, with candidates whispering conspiratorially about the source of the fortune of new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and the already contentious wealth of his predecessor, Rishi Sunak.

In characteristic fashion, former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings – who waged a long guerrilla campaign against Mr Johnson and is reputed to be hoping for a return to Government if Mr Sunak wins the contest – has published some of the wilder claims on Twitter, writing that it would be ‘very Westminster’ for ‘Boris to get the bullet cos of lies over sex/groping… only to be replaced by someone actually sh***ing their spad!’

In characteristic fashion, former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings – who waged a long guerrilla campaign against Mr Johnson and is reputed to be hoping for a return to Government if Mr Sunak wins the contest – has published some of the wilder claims on Twitter

In characteristic fashion, former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings – who waged a long guerrilla campaign against Mr Johnson and is reputed to be hoping for a return to Government if Mr Sunak wins the contest – has published some of the wilder claims on Twitter

A ‘spad’ is Westminster shorthand for the special advisers who work for Ministers. Mr Cummings said: ‘At least 3 current candidates would be worse than Boris… at least 1 is more insane than Truss, clearly unfit to be anywhere near nuclear codes… at least one a spad sh***er.’

He then added: ‘Sorry, correction, I’m informed by Cabinet Office ‘at least 2 spad sh***ers!’ ‘

The Mail on Sunday knows the identity of the candidates referred to by Mr Cummings, and has been assured by them that they are ‘baseless smears’.

Another candidate was horrified to be told that a rival campaign team was spreading false rumours about their alleged use of prostitutes, while a third is said to have been named in the divorce papers of a leading Establishment figure.

But perhaps the most extraordinary claim is that an adviser to one of the leading contenders – this newspaper is not identifying them – met a Labour Party official in a pub on the outskirts of Westminster last week to pass on gossip about their rivals, in the expectation that it would be passed on to Labour-friendly newspapers in what is known as a ‘fencing’ operation.

The bitterness surrounding Boris Johnson’s astonishing ejection from office has seeped into the contest to succeed him, with candidates whispering conspiratorially about the source of the fortune of new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and the already contentious wealth of his predecessor, Rishi Sunak

The bitterness surrounding Boris Johnson’s astonishing ejection from office has seeped into the contest to succeed him, with candidates whispering conspiratorially about the source of the fortune of new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and the already contentious wealth of his predecessor, Rishi Sunak

Mr Sunak’s early advantage in the leadership contest comes just three months after his political career had been effectively written off by many advisers following revelations that his multi-millionaire wife Akshata claims non-domicile status, which allows her to save millions of pounds in tax

Mr Sunak’s early advantage in the leadership contest comes just three months after his political career had been effectively written off by many advisers following revelations that his multi-millionaire wife Akshata claims non-domicile status, which allows her to save millions of pounds in tax

Mr Sunak’s early advantage in the leadership contest comes just three months after his political career had been effectively written off by many advisers following revelations that his multi-millionaire wife Akshata claims non-domicile status, which allows her to save millions of pounds in tax.

But the former Chancellor’s ratings rose again as Mr Johnson became bogged down in by-election losses and rows about sleaze, culminating in the terminal crisis over ‘groper’ Chris Pincher.

Mr Sunak’s Lazarus-like resurgence has fed anger among Mr Johnson’s allies – who denied leaking the tax stories to damage the former Chancellor – over his perceived ‘betrayal’ of the PM.

Rival candidates are already planning to revive the tax issue, on the grounds that it is alienating to working-class voters. They will also focus on the questions being asked about why Mr Sunak held a US Green Card for more than 18 months after becoming Chancellor. The card puts the holder on the path to US citizenship if they declare their intention to make America their permanent home and pay tax there, and at times it allowed him to bypass tough US travel restrictions during the Covid pandemic.

Mr Sunak insisted he followed ‘all laws and rules’ and gave up the status after seeking advice on his first official trip to America.

Mr Zahawi, who entered the race yesterday, has also faced questions over his wife’s tax status – he says she is not non-domiciled – along with his work fundraising with novelist Lord Archer in the 1990s, and the millions he made from a Kurdish oil business.

Mr Zahawi’s attendance at the infamous Presidents Club dinner at London’s Dorchester Hotel in 2018, where guests were reported to have groped and sexually propositioned women employed at the event, has also been raked up.

He was given a ‘dressing down’ by the Tory chief whip for attending the event. Sources close to Mr Sunak deny claims by rival camps that Mr Cummings is working on his campaign.

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