He'll be PM before you know it..
Dan Neidle, Clifford Chance's ex head of tax, has threatened to report Nadhim Zahawi's lawyers to the SRA after they accused him of defamation.
In the brief window between outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss sacking Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor and replacing him with Jeremy Hunt, Zahawi was rumoured to be in the running to retake the position.
Neidle jumped on Twitter with his assessment of that possibility: "Can't believe Liz Truss is seriously considering appointing as Chancellor someone who reportedly was investigated by the NCA [National Crime Agency] in the past and is all-but-certain to be the subject of a current investigation by HMRC".
Neidle has criticised Zahawi repeatedly for not coherently explaining the donation of his 42.5% stake in YouGov to his parents, which Neidle said looked like tax avoidance. When Osborne Clarke, Zahawi's former solicitors, encouraged Neidle to retract his allegations, he drew public attention to Zahawi's strongarm tactics by publishing the firm's "threatening" and "misleading" letters.
Osborne Clarke's litigation lawyers either declined to continue to serve as Zahawi's human shields, or the chancellor decided he needed to go elsewhere for a more pugilistic approach, because a new firm is now submitting itself to a public beating by CC's former Head of UK Tax.
Susan Aslan, founder of ACK Media law, wrote to Neidle accusing him of making "false and misleading claims" in his latest tweet about Zahawi, who she said "is not aware of any investigation by the National Crime Agency of His Majesty's Revenue and Customs".
She said Neidle's claims were defamatory and would seriously damage Zahawi's reputation, and gave the ex-Magic Circle partner 48 hours to delete the tweets in order to "resolve this issue without the need for court involvement".
Neidle responded by publishing Aslan's letter, along with withering commentary on the firm's tactics.
Neidle provided a graph in his analysis.
"When I was a trainee lawyer, assisting in some long-running piece of litigation, I drafted a response to the other side. I said I was 'astonished' at some point they were asserting. The senior partner supervising me was not impressed. 'We are never surprised, astonished, perplexed, amazed, stunned or shocked', he said. Lesson learned. Well, I am surprised, astonished, perplexed, amazed, stunned and shocked at this email."
"I am not a defamation specialist", said Neidle, but "I have spoken to lawyers who are...This is one of the many reasons why making baseless legal threats to senior lawyers is not the greatest idea".
Neidle said his repetition of widely-reported claims about Zahawi "is a drop in the ocean of harm that Mr Zahawi’s reputation has suffered". and that ACK's letter was an attempt to stifle public discussion of his affairs, which made it akin to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Protection, or SLAPP.
"It is unethical and improper for ACK Media Law LLP to write emails of this kind, making baseless legal threats", he said. "At a time when the Solicitors Regulation Authority has taken a strong stance against SLAPPs, it is also extremely unwise. I have therefore invited them to withdraw; if they do not, I will refer them to the SRA".
Neidle gave the firm three days to drop its threats - ACK did not respond to a request for comment.