Nadhim Zahawi prompted laughter from the Question Time audience as he tried to use Vladimir Putin to deflect questions about the government’s chaotic budget.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was eventually forced to make an apology for the fiscal event that crashed the markets after clashing with Talk TV presenter Piers Morgan on Thursday night.
The exchange began with Morgan asking Zahawi if he would say sorry to the country for the economic turmoil that followed the mini-budget.
He said: “What I haven’t heard from any of you at senior level in this party in the last 10 days is one word, sorry – sorry to the country for what you have put the country through. Do you want to say it?”
Zahawi began: “Liz (Truss, prime minister) said ‘I’ve listened and I get it’, which is why 95% of her economic policy, of her growth plan, she wanted to protect and she will deliver, and the 5% which was damaging she cut, you cut and you move forward.”
However, he was cut short by Morgan, who repeatedly asked him if he would apologise to the country.
“It’s one word, and I think the public would value an apology,” Morgan said.
Zahawi then replied that Russian president Putin would want the country to be divided, which caused the audience to erupt into laughter.
“Ask yourself this question, what would Vladimir Putin want us to do, he would want us to be divided right now, because he’s using energy…” he said.
Morgan said: “You can’t say sorry because Vladimir Putin would like it?”
"What would Vladimir Putin want us to do - he wants us to be divided"
“You can’t say sorry because Vladimir Putin may not like it?”@piersmorgan asks @nadhimzahawi to apologise for his government's handling of the energy crisis #bbcqt@bbciplayer: https://t.co/bIIYvpsxOipic.twitter.com/Ta2vNx7wjj
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) October 6, 2022
Presenter Fiona Bruce cut in, telling Zahawi: “Nadhim, people are laughing at that, I just want to point that out.”
Morgan then asked Zahawi again if he was sorry, causing the former chancellor to say “of course” he was.
“Of course I’m sorry, absolutely,” he said.
He added: “By the way there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I get it, I’ve listened, and I’ve acted, and 95% of what I want to do I’m going to deliver, and I’ll drop the 5%’, that’s a good thing,” he said.
Not all shouting. There was some burst of jolly laughter at Zahawi's jokes. pic.twitter.com/RNXM7efikZ
— The Frog (@ladyandfrog) October 6, 2022
— Beaubodor (@beaubodor) October 6, 2022
The pound plummeted in value against the dollar following chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget announcement of a raft of tax cuts, including scrapping the 45p rate of income tax for higher earners.
The government then performed a u-turn and decided to keep the 45p rate.
The pair appeared on the political panel show, along with Succession actor Brian Cox, farmer Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, and Labour MP Lisa Nandy.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.