What's the deal with Boris Johnson, the BBC chairman and an alleged £800,000 loan?

What's the deal with Boris Johnson, the BBC chairman and an alleged £800,000 loan?

Related video: Sky News reporter follows Boris Johnson through Davos in awkward exchange

Sky News

It’s only been four months since Boris Johnson finally left the job of prime minister, and yet he’s still being marred by multiple scandals – from allegedly being part of the “most unsocially distanced party in the UK right now” during lockdown to allegations he recommended a friend for the role of BBC chairman after receiving help with an £800,000 loan.

Mr Johnson, who already had Partygate, missed Cobra meetings, and an unlawful prorogation of parliament to his name (amongst many other things) now faces claims he put forward Tory donor Richard Sharp for the role of BBC chairman after he helped the former PM with arranging a loan guarantee.

The claims, first made in a report in The Times on Saturday, concern funding for Mr Johnson in November and December 2020, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Mr Sharp was already making his way through the BBC’s application process for the role.

According to the outlet, Mr Sharp met with then-cabinet secretary and civil service head Simon Case in Downing Street that December to discuss the situation, and to introduce the MP to Canadian businessman and distant relative of Mr Johnson, Sam Blyth.

Later that same month, the Cabinet Office’s team overseeing ethics and propriety reportedly sent Mr Johnson a formal letter to cease asking for Mr Sharp’s advice – given the ongoing recruitment process.

Too late, though, as Mr Sharp had been put forward as the PM’s preferred candidate and sure enough, culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced Mr Sharp as the government’s preference a few days later.

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The Times also claims Mr Johnson never declared his interactions with Mr Sharp in the parliamentary register of MPs’ interests, either.

The BBC said it “plays no involvement in the recruitment of the chair” in response to The Times’ report, while Mr Sharp said “there is not a conflict” when he “simply connected… Mr Blyth with the cabinet secretary and had no further involvement whatsoever.”

Johnson is facing difficult questions this weekendToby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Meanwhile, a Johnson spokesperson branded the claims as “rubbish”.

“Richard Sharp has never given any financial advice to Boris Johnson, nor has Mr Johnson sought any financial advice from him. There has never been any remuneration or compensation to Mr Sharp from Boris Johnson for this or any other service.

“Mr Johnson did indeed have dinner with Mr Sharp, whom he has known for almost 20 years, and with his cousin. So what? Big deal.

“All Mr Johnson’s financial arrangements have been properly declared and registered on the advice of officials,” they said.

We would say the latest scandal has already cheesed off some Twitter users, but cheese (and wine too, for that matter) was Partygate’s thing.

Author Emma Kennedy wrote: “Re the BBC chairman and the £800k loan story … what the hell did Boris Johnson, earning a six-figure sum as PM, owner of multiple properties, living at the expense of the state, need a £800k loan for?”

“I was briefly acting BBC chairman for six months without knowing the then-prime minister. But I didn’t even get shortlisted for the job,” revealed former BBC chair Diane Coyle.

Dr Mike Galsworthy, Scientists4EU founder, added: “At this stage, what more is there to say? There’s so much rotten wood that it feels like we barely have a skeleton of a country left.”

Labour have now called upon Daniel Greenberg, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, to investigate the claims which they say lack a transparency which “may give the impression that this was a quid pro quo arrangement”.

Party chair Anneliese Dodds MP said: “The financial affairs of this disgraced former prime minister just keep getting murkier, dragging the Conservative Party deeper into yet another quagmire of sleaze.

“Serious questions need to be asked of Johnson: why has this money never been declared, and what exactly did he promise these very generous friends in return for such lavish loans?”

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