Tuesday, January 24, 2023

BBC chairman denies conflict of interest over Boris Johnson loan

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He gave the following interview revealing that he helped then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson secure a loan of up to £800,000before landing the top job at the station.

Mr Sharp said he believed his selection process was conducted “by the book” and denied having misled the advisory panel or MPs on the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee when he appeared before them occurred.

The former banker has been urged to step down after it emerged he had introduced his friend Sam Blyth to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in late 2020 to discuss whether Mr Blyth could act as guarantor on a loan facility for Mr Johnson.

On Monday, Public Appointments Commissioner William Shawcross announced he would investigate Mr Sharp’s appointment as BBC chairman in February 2021 to ensure the process was conducted “fairly, openly and on merit”.

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time – and it’s still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about the infamous Downing Street parties? With fresh revelations from our source number 10, in their own words, listen to the inside story…

In an interview with BBC News, Mr Sharp said he was “satisfied” with the way the trial had been conducted.

“After speaking to the Cabinet Secretary about conflict avoidance and conflict perception, I felt comfortable and still feel that there was no conflict because at that point I wanted to make sure the process was being followed closely in the book, and that the process had not yet begun in relation to any support Sam [Blyth] would make available to the Prime Minister,” he said.

“I had made it clear to the Cabinet Secretary and agreed with him that we both agreed that I had avoided conflict or the perception of conflict.”

When asked in the interview why he agreed to approach Mr Case on Mr Blyth’s behalf, the former banker said he was working as an economic adviser during the pandemic at No 10 at the time.

He added: “In hindsight, especially at the time, I might have said ‘do it yourself’ but I was working at Downing Street at the time…”.

Mr Sharp insisted he had been appointed on merit and that this was not an example of “nepotism”.

“The point you make about nepotism is, ‘Was the appointment itself based on merit or was it distorted in some way?’ I believe it was a merit and I applaud the review by (Commissary of Public Appointments) William Shawcross,” he said.

On Tuesday, Home Secretary Chris Philp told broadcasters that the process to appoint Mr Sharp had followed “due process”, adding the appointment had also been ratified by the DCMS’s cross-party committee.

Mr Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, was announced as the government’s choice to play the BBC in January 2021.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson has insisted his financial arrangements “have been properly explained”.

“Richard Sharp has never advised Boris Johnson on any financial matter, nor has Mr Johnson sought financial advice from him,” the spokesman said.

The Liberal Democrats have said Mr Johnson’s £115,000 allowance to run his post as ex-Prime Minister should be withdrawn until he answers questions about his financial arrangements.

Labor, meanwhile, is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into claims the BBC leader helped Mr Johnson get a loan guarantee.

Boris Johnson’s credit dispute is putting pressure on Rishi Sunak as he faces criticism for it Not sacking Tory Party leader Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs.

The Prime Minister on Monday ordered what could be a wide-ranging ethics probe into Mr Zahawi but resisted calls for the former Chancellor to be sacked over the multimillion-pound tax dispute, which he settled by paying a fine.

Latest Page News revealed earlier this week that the Government’s decorum and ethics team raised the issue of Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs directly with Mr Johnson prior to his appointment as Chancellor.

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