James Cleverly today insisted the BBC chairman was appointed “on merit”, amid claims he helped secure a loan to Boris Johnson.
The foreign secretary said President Richard Sharp was an “incredibly experienced man” during a grilling on Sunday morning.
Labor is demanding a parliamentary inquiry into claims that Sharp helped Johnson secure the loan – the then prime minister recommended him for the role.
the sunday times Claimed that Sharp was involved in arranging guarantors for loans of up to £800,000 to Johnson.
Sharp said he was “simply involved” with People and had no conflict of interest, and a Johnson spokesman said he did not receive financial advice from Sharp.
Cleverly said he had no doubt that Sharp had been appointed “on merit” and that there was “nothing wrong” with him having been politically active prior to his appointment to senior BBC positions.
The foreign secretary said on the BBC’s Sunday Show with Laura Kuensberg: “I know he is an incredibly accomplished, incredibly successful person who brings with him a wealth of experience.
“That’s why he was appointed as chairman of the BBC, but I haven’t had a chance to discuss any of the issues raised today, but I have no doubt that he will be appointed on merit.” Was appointed, and the thing that I would just remind people is that it is not unusual, and in fact there is nothing wrong with it, for someone to be politically active before being appointed to senior BBC positions.
“This is something that has happened regularly in the past.”
Asked whether the connection should have been declared full in principle, he said: “Richard is an incredibly accomplished man who, if he had not had a very, very successful career, would have put himself forward for BBC chairman”. Before placing he was given a wealth of experience, he would not have even been looking for it.
Labor has written to Daniel Greenberg, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, following the allegations.
Sharp introduced multi-millionaire Canadian businessman Sam Blyth, who offered to act as the then PM’s guarantor for the credit facility, to the cabinet secretary. According to The Sunday Times,
The newspaper said Johnson, Sharpe and Blyth had dinner at Chequers before the loan was finalised, although they denied discussing the PM’s finances.
Sharpe, a former Goldman Sachs banker, was announced as the government’s choice for the BBC role in January 2021.
A spokesman for Johnson dismissed the report as “nonsense” and insisted that his financial arrangements had been “properly disclosed”.
The spokesman said: “Richard Sharpe never gave any financial advice to Boris Johnson, nor did Johnson ask him for any financial advice.”
At Johnson’s private dinner with Sharpe, an old friend, and Blyth, a distant relative, the spokesman said: “So what? Big deal.”
Sharpe told The Sunday Times: “There is no conflict when I simply connected with the Cabinet Secretary to Blyth, at his request and there was no further involvement.”
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC plays no role in the Chair’s recruitment and any questions are a matter for the Government.”
In a letter to Greenberg, Labor Party chair Anneliese Dodds called for an “urgent investigation” as she cited the code of conduct for MPs that “holds public office from exposing themselves to any financial or other obligations to outside persons or organisations”. Should not be kept under come what may.” influence them in the performance of their official duties”.
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