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Rishi Sunak stays tight-lipped over Infosys

The latest scandals and gossip from Westminster and Fleet Street

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murthy attend a reception to celebrate the British Asian Trust at the British Museum (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak has always been reluctant to talk publicly about Infosys – the Indian IT giant co-founded by his father-in-law – or declare his household income from it, arguing that it was a matter for his wife Akshata Murty alone and of no legitimate public interest.

Whether this argument will be sustainable now that Contracts Finder, the government’s own database of public sector tenders and contracts, has shown the company has been involved in £172m worth of public sector contracts remains to be seen.

It discloses that Infosys has signed contracts to provide services and supplies to multiple government clients. Its most recent contract was awarded last December, and its earliest in March 2015, both with Transport for London – for whom it was most recently contracted to supply £1,760,500 worth of “consulting, software development, internet and support.”

In 2015, it managed to secure government-related contracts worth £98m with 15 partner companies. Other contracts include two with the Home Office worth £10.8m – including a 2017-2020 contract, worth £7.4m, to supply “quality assurance and infrastructure testing.” 

It has signed six contracts with the Care Quality Commission totalling £20.3m, two contracts with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency worth £5.35m, been a party to a £10m contract to provide Westminster Council with its digital road map and supplied computer goods and software to Nottingham University valued at £650,600. It has also worked with the London Borough of Merton and East Sussex County Council in contracts worth £500,000 and £25m, respectively.

No contracts are, however, reported between Infosys, the Treasury or the Cabinet Office on Contracts Finder, and, while the work shows the extent to which the company is of legitimate interest to UK taxpayers, there is no suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to the awarding of any of the contracts.

In Infosys’ latest annual report, Akshata Murty is reported as holding a 0.93% interest in the business, amounting to 38.9 million shares, currently worth around £89m. Dividends paid on the shares net her around £12m a year, and, until recently, she was not liable for UK tax on account of her non-dom status.

There seems little if any point in the various attempts now being made to unseat Dominic Raab as the MP for Esher and Walton. Even before he was officially found to have been a bully, Raab was facing almost certain humiliation in the constituency at the next election. Last time around, he only narrowly beat the Lib Dem candidate Monica Harding with 49.4% of the vote, against her 45%.

Harding, who will be standing again for the Lib Dems in the constituency in the next election, knows only too well it’s in her best interests that the massively unpopular Raab stays put.

“I have a sense of unfinished business with him,” she tells me. “I didn’t let him bully me last time and I certainly wouldn’t let him bully me in 2024. I well remember him shouting out at the count last time how he would ‘get Brexit done,’ totally impervious to the fact that more than half of his constituents emphatically didn’t want him or his ideology.”

Raab is unlikely to be bothered one way or the other, with rumours already circulating that the bullying report has given him a great excuse to step down of his own accord and save himself his constituents’ retribution. There has been talk of GB News giving him his own show, a prospect that might appeal, not least because it would irk his old foe Liz Truss, if it’s true she has herself been angling, unsuccessfully so far, for a job there. Raab may also return to work as a solicitor as, before he entered politics, he worked for the City law firm Linklaters and later as a government lawyer during the Tony Blair administration.

The long-awaited report from Adam Heppinstall KC into the irregularities that surrounded Richard Sharp’s appointment as BBC chair – not least his part in fixing a desperately needed £800,000 loan for the then prime minister Boris Johnson – have been a test of his friendships.

None, however, has been more loyal than Johnson’s sister Rachel, who was controversially invited on to Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday show after the story of the loan broke, to insist that all the parties involved did “everything above board and everything was transparent.” The pair have been spotted at the same parties, are occasional tennis partners and she is said to have been “100% there for him” during his current travails.

The wit and wisdom of James Cleverly on television news shows has been sorely missed of late, but the foreign secretary has finally worked out one of the great perks of being foreign secretary.

Updated travel disclosures for ministers show that he has managed to rack up £750,000 in the three months to Christmas travelling the globe. There was a £235,307 three-day visit to Mumbai and New Delhi, a two-day trip to Africa – taking in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Semera and Hawassa – at a cost of £225,111. A three-day visit to the Middle East, undertaken in November, cost £142,465; while a private jet used for a visit to Romania and Poland set the taxpayer back £68,215.

In November last year, the Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine fulminated against Elon Musk for proposing to charge people for “a blue tick, or whatever it is” on Twitter, suggesting that the tycoon had the “emotional intelligence of a garden gnome” for not being able to see that monetising the status symbol would “devalue” it.

After the blue ticks finally disappeared across Twitter like the morning dew last week, one among those that quickly returned was Sarah Vine’s. If this was one of the ticks Musk personally gifted to certain eminent persons, she has yet to explain it to her Twitter followers.

Presumably because she has never managed to make it as an internet star – and her boss Lord Rothermere is keen to see all his journalists drive up their followings on platforms such as Twitter to drive traffic to MailOnline – Vine has always been chippy about this particular platform.

Fulminating the other day against Gary Lineker, she mentioned in a tart aside that the “lofty” media star had “8.8 million followers on Twitter alone,” and one can certainly see why that would rankle when, with all the projection the Mail gives her, she has only managed to make it to 50,000.

One old friend of Vine and her former husband Michael Gove once told me the key to understanding them was “the desperate need they both have to be accepted.”

It can’t have helped their sense of amour propre when, at a party given by the Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev a few years ago, they both walked up to the actor Hugh Grant – against whom Vine had fulminated that morning in her column – and were told to “fuck off” while others in the room laughed.

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