There is, at the very least, a lack of transparency surrounding this issue - Carl Dinnen reports
The BBC chairman is doing a "very important and good job" at the helm of the corporation, the foreign secretary has insisted amid accusations over his appointment.
James Cleverley addressed numerous questions on Sunday morning about claims the chairman of the BBC helped Boris Johnson secure a loan – weeks before the then-prime minister recommended him for the role.
The Sunday Times reported Mr Sharp, a Tory donor, was involved in arranging a guarantor on a loan of up to £800,000 for Mr Johnson in late 2020.
Mr Sharp told the newspaper he had “simply connected” people and there was no conflict of interest, while Mr Johnson’s spokesman dismissed the report as “rubbish” and insisted his financial arrangements “have been properly declared”.
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Speaking to ITV News, Mr Cleverley said: “My understanding is Mr Sharp has declared all things that were required of him to be declared and, as I say, the reporting doesn’t indicate a conflict of interest.
“People might speculate that to be the case, but people speculate about politics all the time, I’m not going to add to that speculation.
“What I have seen does not indicate to me that there was a conflict of interest.
“What I also have seen is a very, very experienced, senior leader, who is actually doing a very important and good job at the helm of the BBC."
'I’m not going to add to that speculation': James Cleverley defends the BBC chairman and Boris Johnson
According to The Sunday Times, Mr Sharp introduced multimillionaire Canadian businessman Sam Blyth, who had proposed to act as Mr Johnson’s guarantor for a credit facility, to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.
The newspaper said Mr Johnson, Mr Sharp and Mr Blyth then had dinner at Chequers before the loan was finalised, though they denied the then PM’s finances were discussed.
Mr Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, was announced as the Government’s choice for the BBC role in January 2021.
Mr Johnson’s sister suggested Mr Case was central to the arrangement of the £800,000 credit facility.
Rachel Johnson denied any knowledge of her brother’s financial affairs, telling the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg: “All the parties involved have given statements to The Sunday Times, which suggest they did everything above board and everything was transparent.
“I suggest you ask Simon Case, who seems to be the linchpin in both these stories, to come on and say what happened.”
Labour has written to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Daniel Greenberg calling for an investigation into the claims while Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell has written to the Commissioner for Public Appointments, William Shawcross, asking him to investigate the appointment process.
In the letter to Mr Greenberg, Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds called for an “urgent investigation” as she cited the MPs’ code of conduct that “holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties”.
It comes after Labour demanded a probe earlier this week into reports that Mr Johnson used Mr Blyth, reportedly worth 50 million US dollars, to act as a guarantor for an £800,000 credit facility.
Ms Dodds raised concerns that neither alleged arrangement was properly declared.