Calls to examine Boris Johnson’s role in Richard Sharp’s BBC appointment
Boris Johnson’s role in the appointment of Richard Sharp as BBC chairman should be examined, the former commissioner for public appointments has said.
The former prime minister “himself was conflicted” in the process, according to Sir Peter Riddell, who also said questions remain about the loan made to him.
Mr Johnson recommended Mr Sharp for the influential job after Mr Sharp informed him he would be telling the Cabinet Secretary about his friend Sam Blyth’s offer to help the then-prime minister with his financial troubles.
Mr Sharp resigned as BBC chairman on Friday after barrister Adam Heppinstall KC’s review found him to have broken the rules by failing to disclose he played a role in getting Mr Johnson an £800,000 loan guarantee.
Sir Peter, who was the commissioner when Mr Sharp took on the BBC role, said Mr Johnson’s role “hasn’t really been discussed enough” because it was outside the remit of the inquiry.
“He (Mr Johnson) himself was conflicted… Should he have recused himself from the appointment given he knew about Richard Sharp helping him out on this loan?” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.
“Big questions remain” about “conflicts involving Boris Johnson’s role and about who made the loan to him,” Sir Peter also wrote on Twitter.
As former Commissioner for Public Appointments at time of Richard Sharp appointment I think Adam Heppinstall KC report is fair and balanced but big questions remain, outside his remit, about conflicts involving Boris Johnson’s role and about who made the loan to him.
— Peter Riddell (@_peterriddell) April 28, 2023
Mr Heppinstall’s report found the former Tory donor twice breached the code governing public appointments, risking the perception he was not independent from the then-prime minister.
It noted the support Mr Sharp received from Downing Street during the hiring process, with No 10 telling MPs interviewing candidates that he “looked like a strong candidate”.
Sir Peter also noted the “curiously murky” exchanges between Mr Sharp and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, and questioned whether the Cabinet Office should have told colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport scrutinising Mr Sharp’s appointment about “what was happening with the private finances”.
Mr Johnson has declined to comment on the inquiry’s findings.