‘The BBC disappearing up its own fundament’: Boris Johnson attacks ‘complete nonsense’ over claims broadcaster’s chairman helped him secure an £800k loan while he was PM – as Richard Sharp orders review into how he was given his job
- Boris Johnson hits out at ‘nonsense’ claims BBC chairman helped him get loan
- Richard Sharp reported to have held talks about arranging guarantee for £800k
- Discussions said to have taken place just weeks before Mr Sharp was appointed
Boris Johnson today hit out at ‘complete nonsense’ over claims the BBC chairman helped him secure a £800,000 loan while he was prime minister.
The former premier said the reports about Richard Sharp’s involvement were ‘just another example of the BBC disappearing up its own fundament’.
Mr Johnson, who has returned to London after a weekend trip to Ukraine, also insisted Mr Sharp ‘knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – let me tell you that for 100 per cent ding dang sure’.
It has been reported that Mr Sharp was involved in talks about how to arrange a loan guarantee for Mr Johnson in November and December 2020.
The discussions are said to have taken place just weeks before the then-PM recommended Mr Sharp for the role as BBC chairman.
Mr Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker and an ex-adviser to current PM Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor, today ordered a review into his appointment as head of the broadcaster.
In a statement, he admitted the row had become a ‘distraction’ for the BBC but insisted he had been given the BBC chairmanship ‘on merit’.
Boris Johnson hit out at ‘complete nonsense’ over claims the BBC chairman helped him secure a £800,000 loan while he was prime minister
It has been reported that Richard Sharp was involved in talks about how to arrange a loan guarantee for Mr Johnson in November and December 2020
The discussions are said to have taken place just weeks before the then-PM recommended Mr Sharp for the role as BBC chairman
Mr Johnson is reported to have secured a loan of up to £800,000 in late 2020 at a time when he faced financial troubles over divorce payments, childcare costs and bills for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
According to The Sunday Times, Sam Blyth, a multimillionaire Canadian businessman and distant cousin of Mr Johnson, raised the idea of acting as the PM’s guarantor and asked Mr Sharp, an old friend, for advice on the best way forward.
The newspaper claimed that Mr Sharp later discussed the matter with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, while Mr Johnson, Mr Sharp and Mr Blyth are all said to have had a private dinner at Chequers before the loan was finalised.
Labour have called for a probe into Mr Sharp’s subsequent appointment as BBC chairman – a role he is said to have already applied for before entering talks about Mr Johnson’s loan – in January 2021.
Asked about the reports this morning, Mr Johnson told Sky News: ‘This is a load of complete nonsense, absolute nonsense.
‘Let me just tell you, Richard Sharp is a good and a wise man but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances, let me tell you that for 100 per cent ding, dang sure.
‘This is just another example of the BBC disappearing up its own fundament.’
Mr Sunak was also quizzed about the row during a visit to a hospital in Northamptonshire this morning.
The PM, who is also facing questions about the tax affairs of Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, insisted Mr Sharp went through a ‘rigorous’ and ‘independent’ appointments process before becoming BBC chairman.
‘This appointment was obviously made by one of my predecessors before I became PM,’ Mr Sunak said.
‘The appointments process itself for appointing the BBC chairman is a rigorous process, it is independent, there are two stages to it, it is transparent and published online.
‘Mr Sharp’s appointment went through that full process.’
But Mr Sharp himself has asked for a scrutiny panel to examine potential conflicts of interest over his role in helping Mr Johnson securing a loan.
Mr Johnson insisted Mr Sharp ‘knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – let me tell you that for 100 per cent ding dang sure’
Rishi Sunak, speaking on a visit to a hospital in Northamptonshire, insisted Mr Sharp went through a ‘rigorous’ and ‘independent’ appointments process before becoming BBC chairman
In a statement reported by the BBC, Mr Sharp acknowledged ‘distractions such as this are not welcome’ and said he had asked the nominations committee of the BBC board to look at the matter.
‘We have many challenges at the BBC and I know that distractions such as this are not welcome,’ he said.
‘Our work at the BBC is rooted in trust. Although the appointment of the BBC chairman is solely a matter for the Government… I want to ensure that all the appropriate guidelines have been followed within the BBC since I have joined.
‘The nominations committee of the BBC board has responsibility for regularly reviewing board members’ conflicts of interest.’
The BBC reported that Mr Sharp ‘has agreed with the board’s senior independent director that the committee shall look at this when it next meets and, in the interests of transparency, publish the conclusions’.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell yersterday wrote to William Shawcross, the commissioner for public appointments, to ask him to investigate the appointment process for Mr Sharp.
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