Labour calls for probe over claims Johnson had cousin act as credit ‘guarantor’

Labour is calling for an investigation after Boris Johnson allegedly used a distant millionaire relative to act as a guarantor for an £800,000 credit facility while he was in Downing Street.

The party has written to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Daniel Greenberg following a report in The Sunday Times that Canadian businessman Sam Blyth, reportedly worth 50 million dollars, agreed to act as a guarantor for a credit facility for the then-prime minister.

According to the report, Mr Blyth is a friend of Mr Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson. Their mothers were said to be cousins.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson rejected any suggestion that a conflict of interest or a breach of the MPs’ code of conduct existed, adding that he made all the “necessary declarations he was required to make”.

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”.

She told the standards commissioner that she was concerned that Mr Johnson “may have breached this section by entering into an arrangement whereby he was dependent on the generosity of an individual who was, I understand, at the time standing to be chief executive of the British Council”.

She added: “I’m concerned that, without adequate transparency over this arrangement, it may give the impression that this was a quid pro quo arrangement, something which would fundamentally damage faith in our democratic process.”

Energy costs
Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour Party (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms Dodds also flagged concerns that the alleged arrangement was not properly declared.

She said: “The Code of Conduct states that, even when a gift or a loan is made from a family member (the individual named in the report is a distant cousin), ‘both the possible motive of the giver and the use to which the gift is to be put should be considered’ and that if ‘there is any doubt, the benefit should be registered’.

“Clearly, the purpose of these rules is to avoid a conflict of interest, both in reality and in perception. It is unclear, however, how such an arrangement could possibly be exempt from declaration.”

A spokesperson for the former prime minister said: “This is nonsense. There is no conflict of interest or breach of the MPs’ Code of Conduct. There was never any loan made by Sam Blyth.

“Mr Johnson neither knew about nor in any way assisted Mr Blyth in any application for any public position.

“Mr Johnson made all the necessary declarations he was required to make, for example, in the register of ministers’ interests.

“At all times he acted on the instructions of officials, the Cabinet Secretary and the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, as the Cabinet Office has confirmed.”

Ms Dodds said that the issue was one of public trust: “If No 10 or the Conservative Party cannot come clean on who Boris Johnson received money from, or how much, or on what terms, then there must be an urgent investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.”

The Sunday Times report said Mr Johnson needed the financial provision despite earning £164,000 as prime minister, with an anonymous source cited as saying Mr Johnson was on the verge of “going broke” and there were fears that he “would not be able to pay his own annual tax bill”.

Before entering Downing Street, he was being paid £275,000 a year for writing a weekly column for The Daily Telegraph — money that dried up upon entering No 10.

Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie are also said to have used a Dominican Republic property owned by Mr Blyth, suggesting it was where he was holidaying when Liz Truss, his successor, was ousted from Downing Street.

Mr Blyth reportedly advertises the Caribbean holiday villa at £4,100 per night.

The Sunday Times said using Mr Blyth as a guarantor was signed off by the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team on the condition that there was “no conflict of interest, no risk of a conflict of interest, and no risk even of the perception of such a conflict”.

The report said Mr Blyth was considered, between late 2020 and early 2021 – when the guarantor arrangements were being put into place – for a position as chief executive of the British Council, a non-departmental public body.

The report said Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and then-independent ethics adviser to the prime minister Lord Geidt were also unaware.

The council ended up deciding against hiring Mr Blyth, The Sunday Times said.

It comes as senior Tory MP David Davis used an article in The Independent to warn that allies of Mr Johnson calling for his return were damaging the party.

Mr Davis, who called on Mr Johnson to quit as prime minister last January, wrote: “Boris is not going to be the electoral asset that his acolytes claim. The continual drumbeat calling for his return is certainly going to fail, but in the process it is corroding the party’s chances at the next election.”