‘Cash for Boris’ row: Can Richard Sharp survive as BBC chair?

After the scandal over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, Gavin Williamson’s resignation amid claims he threatened workers, and the continued investigation into bullying allegations in opposition to Dominic Raab, the prime minister is going through yet one more spherical of damning headlines on authorities “sleaze”. 

Conservative MPs, who backed Rishi Sunak’s management marketing campaign on a platform of “professionalism, integrity and accountability”, will probably be amongst these trying dimly upon the drip-drip of tales surrounding the conduct of BBC chair and Boris Johnson-appointee Richard Sharp.

Richard Sharp is battling to carry on to his much-coveted place, with accusations swirling that he did not reveal his position in teeing up a £800,000 mortgage for then-PM Johnson. Sharp, 67, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, is alleged to have linked Johnson with Sam Blyth, a distant cousin, who subsequently acted because the PM’s mortgage guarantor.

The saga implicates key political figures, together with Johnson who appointed Sharp as BBC chair, and present cupboard secretary Simon Case, who was on the centre of discussions with the then-PM on how he may safe a mortgage. Sharp is alleged to have linked Blyth with Case, the nation’s most senior civil servant.


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For his half, Johnson has denied that Sharp ever gave him monetary recommendation, dismissing the story as “a load of full nonsense” in late January. Sharp has proved equally dismissive, telling the commons digital, tradition, media and sport (DCMS) committee that he knew “nothing about [Johnson’s] private monetary affairs”, whereas expressing remorse that the BBC was embarrassed because of this.

However a damning report by a cross-party group of MPs printed on Sunday reveals that Mr Sharp’s future is at the moment hanging by a thread. The DCMS committee, the identical cross-party group who questioned Sharp in early February and suggested on his appointment in 2021, discovered “vital errors of judgement” in facilitating an £800,000 mortgage assure for Johnson.

Damian Inexperienced, Conservative MP and appearing chairman of the committee, expressed frustration that MPs contemplating Sharp’s suitability have been “not in full possession of the information”.

This view was echoed by Labour deputy chief Angela Rayner final week, who instructed BBC Radio 4‘s “At present” programme that Sharp had “clearly introduced the BBC into disrepute” and had “severe questions” to reply. Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy has since stepped up Labour’s criticism, saying on Sunday that Sharp’s place is turning into “more and more untenable” within the wake of the findings.

It’s value noting that there’s not an outright consensus in British politics on Sharp’s future. Lord Vaizey, a former tradition minister, has argued that the BBC Chair’s actions usually are not a “hanging offence”. He instructed BBC Radio 4 that: “The report doesn’t say he ought to resign. It’s actually stretching it to say Richard Sharp organized a mortgage for Boris Johnson.”

The Sharp saga is at the moment the topic of an investigation by senior lawyer Adam Heppinstall KC, on request of William Shawcross, the commissioner for public appointments. If Heppinstall’s investigation, which is anticipated to report quickly, reaches the identical conclusion as that reached by the DCMS committee then members of the BBC board are more likely to take a equally dim view on whether or not Mr Sharp can keep in put up. 

In response to a report The Impartial, the BBC board, upon which Mr Sharp sits, will decide on their chair’s future as soon as Heppinstall’s investigation concludes. 

Proper now, it’s unclear simply how huge a job the prime minister will play in deciding whether or not the chair can proceed within the position. However privately, Sunak will most likely be hoping that Sharp could but depart quietly on his phrases — somewhat than drag out accusations of cosiness on the high of British society. 

A legacy of Johnson’s messy legacy on requirements or not, the Sharp saga now dangers implicating Rishi Sunak, with cupboard secretary Simon Case deemed to be on the centre of affairs and the Conservative occasion considerably uncovered on issues of “sleaze”. As issues stand, it’s not simple to see how Sunak could make the dangerous headlines disappear — wanting a decisive intervention himself.