Nadhim Zahawi has become the second Tory minister to repeatedly refuse to condemn Donald Trump’s election fraud comments.
The minister for business joins foreign office secretary Dominic Raab in shirking away from criticising Trump’s allegations that the US election has been ‘rigged’.
Speaking with the BBC on Wednesday, Raab said it was ‘common practice’ for the British government not to comment on ongoing elections.
He said: “Forgive me if I don’t get drawn into commenting on the election night commentary in the US. I don’t think it’s a good move for a UK foreign secretary.”
Asked if he would “call a good friend out” for spreading misinformation, the minister said: “The truth is that we must now wait to see how this uncertainty unfolds… We have full faith in the American system to produce a [result] and it may take days rather than hours.”
Overnight, major US media outlets cut short a 17-minute broadcast by the president in the White House after he made a litany of unsupported claims that votes were being tampered with and that Republican observes were being barred from overseeing vote counts in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania.
Asked on Sky News’ Kay Burley @ Breakfast whether he would condemn the comments, Zahawi said: “I think it’s good practice for a British minister and a British government not to comment on the elections of a great democracy like the United States.
“And I think the important thing is for us to wait for the outcome of this closely contested election. And I think it’s only wise, I hope you agree, that the British government congratulates the winner when that outcome is clear.”
When pressed again, Zahawi simply said he had full faith in the US electoral system to produce a result.
When probed for a third time, the minister replied: “I will not comment on a live election between two excellent candidates in a very closely fought contest that at the moment the outcome is unclear.
“And until we have all the facts before us, it would be unwise for a British minister to comment on the great democratic processes of the United States of America.”
The minister’s comments caused some outrage on Twitter. One user wrote: “There’s respecting the Electorial process sure, but silence in the face of Trump’s absolutely unhinged statement last night is just unacceptable.”
Another added: “I am just wondering how out of control a US President would have to be in undermining his country’s electoral process before the British government would express mild concern.”