Boris Johnson was reportedly told to stop asking Richard Sharp for “advice” about his “personal finances” just days before he was announced as the new BBC boss.
Mr. Johnsonwho was prime minister at the time, was warned by officials to stop discussing his financial arrangements with Mr Sharp on December 22, 2020, according to The Sunday Times.
Mr Sharpe was due to be announced as BBC President on 6 January 2021.
The former banker was facing calls to step down as BBC chief after it emerged that in late 2020 Sam Blyth had presented himself to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to discuss whether Mr Blythe, a distant cousin of Johnson whom Sharpe had known for more than 40 years, could She acts as a guarantor for a loan facility to the Prime Minister.
Sharpe said earlier that he would remain in his post, and MPs are due to question the BBC chief over the controversy next month.
A spokesperson for the former prime minister said Mr Sharp “never gave Boris Johnson any financial advice, nor did Johnson seek any financial advice from him”.
They added: “Neither Mr Johnson nor anyone acting on his behalf was aware that Sam Blythe was being considered for any role on the British Council, nor did Mr Johnson have any discussions with Sam Blythe or anyone else about any such role.”
“Neither Mr Johnson nor anyone acting on his behalf has spoken to anyone at the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office).) Regarding Mr. Blythe for any public appointment.”
The spokesperson said that “Throughout this process, as material obtained by The Sunday Times demonstrates, Johnson has followed advice and taken the necessary steps to ensure integrity. All statements have been properly made.”
According to The Sunday Times, Canadian millionaire Sam Blythe first proposed the loan guarantee during a dinner with Richard Sharpe.
Early December 2020:
In early December, Richard Sharpe put Sam Blyth in contact with the Cabinet Minister, Simon Case.
Before the end of the year, Richard Sharpe and Sam Blyth met Boris Johnson for dinner at his country residence, Checkers. They insist not to discuss the prime minister’s financial affairs.
At the beginning of January, the government announced that Richard Sharpe was the preferred candidate for the post of head of the BBC.
Citing a leaked Cabinet Office note, the newspaper said the advice was given by the chief civil servant Mr Case after Johnson and Sharpe sought advice on accepting the £800,000 loan from Blyth.
Johnson reportedly took out the loan in February 2021.
The paper cites advice given by Mr Case, which reads: “In view of the imminent announcement of Richard Sharpe as the new head of the BBC, it is important that you no longer seek his advice on your personal financial matters.”
Public Appointments Commissioner William Shawcross has already said he plans to investigate Sharpe’s appointment as head of the BBC, following the first set of reports last week.
BBC chief Richard Sharpe is confident he has been appointed on merit after a row over Boris Johnson’s loan
Head of the BBC – what is the role?
The BBC Chairman is the Chairman of the BBC Board of Directors – with a salary of £160,000.
They are responsible for maintaining the independence of the BBC while overseeing the work of the Corporation to fulfill its mission.
The president is also responsible for the general manager hiring process and can fire the person in that role. They are also the institution’s highest representative in parliament and government, including devolved departments.
Speaking to Sky News yesterday, Roger Moses, the former head of TV news at the BBC, said it was a “two way” job.
He said that while it was “the most important role for holding the BBC accountable to the public”, it was not a role to do with the BBC’s broadcast journalism.
But Mr. Musi noted that it is not uncommon for a president to be a political appointment and that this is “not new”.
Sharpe told BBC News last week he was “satisfied” with the way the operation was carried out.
The paper also notes that Mr Blyth appeared on the Foreign Office’s list of four recommended candidates during the search for the British Council’s chief executive, with his family connections to Johnson not being disclosed to senior figures in the council.
Mr Blyth told the newspaper he had disqualified himself on December 7, 2020 and had not made a formal application.
“I think my name may have been suggested by civil servants who were trying to identify potential candidates at the research stage of the appointment process,” he said.
Liberal Democrat leader Wendy Chamberlain has called on the government to release Johnson’s internal record of interests.
She said: “How can Johnson claim that Richard Sharp knows nothing about his personal finances when officials have expressly told him to stop asking his financial advice?
“The public is tired of these endless lies and Tory cover-ups. This government must clean up and publish all relevant documents, including Boris Johnson’s internal record of interests, so we can get to the bottom of this.”
Mr Sharpe said last week: “After having a discussion with the Cabinet Minister about conflict avoidance, conflict visualization, I felt comfortable and still felt there was no conflict because at that point what I was striving to do was make sure the process was followed exactly by the book.” , and that the process was not started, of any kind, in terms of what support Sam (Blythe) would have given the Prime Minister.”
“I made it clear and agreed with the Cabinet Secretary, we both had a judgment that I avoided conflict or perceived conflict.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaks.”