Sunak still backs BBC boss over Boris loan row

Boris Johnson says Richard Sharp controversy is ‘nonsense’

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Rishi Sunak is standing by BBC chairman Richard Sharp despite a damning review into his actions, a No10 spokesman revealed yesterday.

MPs found Mr Sharp made “significant errors of judgment” by acting as a go-between for a loan guarantee for Boris Johnson.

But Mr Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters that the BBC chairman still retained the support of the Prime Minister, adding he was “confident the right process was followed”.

He added: “This was a two-stage process, including assessment by an advisory assessment panel, constituted according to the public appointments code.

“But there is a review into this process and we will look at that carefully.”

Mr Sharp took the role in February 2021 after being recommended by then-PM Mr Johnson and having his appointment approved by a committee of MPs.

While Mr Sharp did not arrange the loan, he admitted introducing his friend Sam Blyth – a cousin of Mr Johnson who wanted to help the then-prime minister – to the Cabinet Office.

It was said that Mr Sharp had approached the country’s most senior civil servant Simon Case over Mr Blyth.

A spokesman for Mr Sharp has said he “regrets” not telling MPs about his involvement with Mr Blyth “and apologises”.

The PM, on a visit in Oldham, was pressed by broadcasters on whether he had confidence in Mr Sharp.

Mr Sunak has insisted that it was right to wait for the outcome of an independent investigation into his appointment as BBC chairman.

He said: “This relates to a process that happened before I was Prime Minister, obviously.

“It is currently being looked at by the independent office of public appointments and that process is ongoing so I can’t speculate or pre-judge the outcome of that.

“But it is an independent process that is going to look at it and make sure that everything was followed correctly and all the rules and procedures were adhered to and obviously we will wait for that report.”

Mr Sharp was named as the preferred candidate for the BBC job in January 2021.

The Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee backed his appointment but they were not aware of his role in facilitating the £800,000 loan guarantee.

They have now suggested Mr Sharp’s failure to come clean could damage the BBC.

The committee concluded: “Mr Sharp should consider the impact his omissions will have on trust in him, the BBC and the public appointments process.”

A spokesman for Mr Sharp said over the weekend that the BBC chairman “appreciates that there was information that the committee felt that it should have been made aware of in his pre-appointment hearing”.

The spokesman added: “He regrets this and apologises. It was in seeking at the time to ensure that the rules were followed, and in the belief that this had been achieved, that Mr Sharp acted in good faith in the way he did.

“At that meeting, and subsequently, it was not suggested by the Cabinet Office that the act of connecting Mr Blyth with Mr Case was something that should be declared, and it was explicitly agreed that by not being party to the matter going forward he would be excluded from any conflict.”

The spokesman said Mr Sharp “would like to apologise again to the BBC’s brilliant staff given the distraction it has caused”.

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