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Why is Boris Johnson at the center of controversy again and why does it matter?


Months after leaving Downing Street in a whirlwind of scandals, Boris Johnson is again at the center of controversy.


What began as a story about debts of up to £800,000 developed into a crisis at the top of the BBC with a distant relative.

So what is the former prime minister accused of and why does it matter?

money Money money

The Sunday Times first reported last week that Canadian education entrepreneur Sam Blyth had agreed to act as guarantor for an £800,000 line of credit for Johnson while he was still prime minister.


Blyth told the National Post in Canada: “The guarantees that were provided were far less than what was reported and were pre-approved by the Cabinet Office and ethics before it was put into place.”

bbc connection

A follow-up story in yesterday’s Sunday Times revealed that Richard Sharpe had helped facilitate the arrangement a few weeks before becoming chairman of the BBC.


The paper reported that Sharp, who has donated £400,000 to the Conservatives in the past, met Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to discuss the loan arrangement.

Sharpe also had dinner with Blyth and Johnson at Chequers before agreeing the loan, but all three men denied that the then PM’s financial affairs were discussed.

In an email to BBC staff today, Sharpe said his role was simply to “seek an introduction” to Blyth “to the relevant official in government”.


However, he admitted the matter was a “distraction” for the BBC, and said he was referring to his appointment as chairman of the corporation’s nominations committee.

What has Johnson said?

Unsurprisingly, Boris Johnson is attempting to weasel his way through the row.

In his first public comments after the story broke, he said: “It’s complete nonsense – complete nonsense.

“Let me tell you, Richard Sharpe is a nice and intelligent man, but he doesn’t know a whole lot about my personal finances – I can tell you that for 100% ding dang sure.

“This is another example of the BBC missing its core principle.”

That last comment suggests Johnson doesn’t fully understand the story, given that it was broken by the Sunday Times and not the BBC.

What will happen next?

In a further development this afternoon, it emerged that the Commissioner for Public Appointments, William Shawcross, would investigate the decision to appoint Sharpe as chairman of the BBC.

In a letter to shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell, he said: “The role of the commissioner is to oversee the process of public appointments and ensure that appointments are made fairly, openly and on the basis of merit.

“I intend to review this competition to assure myself and the public that the process was run in compliance with the Government’s governance code for public appointments.”

Powell said: “The BBC chairman, Number 10 and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport clearly have questions to answer.

“This inquiry is welcome news and should shed light on this recruitment process and provide reassurance to the public.”

How bad is it for Rishi Sunak?

Sunak famously promised to lead a government of “integrity, professionalism and accountability”, and while Johnson is no longer around the cabinet table, such headlines are bad news for the prime minister.

At a time when Tory Party chairman Nadim Zahawi is embroiled in controversy over his tax affairs, there is concern for the PM that it adds to the perception among voters that the Conservatives are lazy and that their time in office is almost over It is done .

However, one silver lining for Sunak is that the Richard Sharpe story may give pause for thought to Tory MPs who would prefer to see Johnson in No. 10 ahead of the next election.

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