BBC launches review into own chairman as pressure builds over fears of bias at the top of corporation

Richard Sharp was allegedly involved in arranging a guarantor on a loan of up to £800,000 for Boris Johnson in late 2020

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An urgent review into the appointment of BBC chairman Richard Sharp is to take place, amid concerns of a conflict of interest at the top of the corporation.

Pressure has been heaped on the broadcaster since it emerged at the weekend that Sharp had helped secure a personal loan for then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson before being appointed to the top job just weeks later.

The senior BBC executive did not disclose his role in helping with the former Conservative leader's finances when going through the process of being appointed BBC chairman.

The loan of up to £800,000 for Johnson was secured in late 2020.

Sharp said he had asked for a review into his appointment to ensure "all the appropriate guidelines have been followed".

In a statement, Sharp said: “We have many challenges at the BBC and I know that distractions such as this are not welcome.

“Our work at the BBC is rooted in trust. Although the appointment of the BBC chairman is solely a matter for the Government … I want to ensure that all the appropriate guidelines have been followed within the BBC since I have joined.

“The nominations committee of the BBC board has responsibility for regularly reviewing board members’ conflicts of interest.”

Sharp introduced multimillionaire Canadian businessman Sam Blyth, who had proposed to act as the then-PM’s guarantor for a credit facility, to the Cabinet Secretary, according to the Sunday Times newspaper who first reported the story.

The paper alleged Johnson, Sharp and Blyth then had dinner at Chequers before the loan was finalised, though they denied the PM’s finances were discussed.

Labour's Lucy Powell warned the BBC's impartiality was at risk
Labour's Lucy Powell warned the BBC's impartiality was at risk

Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, was announced as the Government’s choice for the BBC role in January 2021.

Labour has demanded the Commissioner for Public Appointments to fully investigate the appointment over concerns the appointment process leaves Sharp susceptible to influence.

Lucy Powell said she had written to the Commissioner for Public Appointments asking him to investigate the process by which Sharp got the job.

“I have written to him because there are some very serious allegations here and real deep concerns about the recruitment process of this very important role in terms of being the chair of the BBC Trust (who is) there to uphold the impartiality and independence of the BBC, something that we hear regularly from this Government that they feel isn’t upheld," she told the BBC.

Boris Johnson has rejected claims proper process was not followed
Boris Johnson has rejected claims proper process was not followed
The former Prime Minister accused the BBC of 'disappearing up its own fundament'
The former Prime Minister accused the BBC of 'disappearing up its own fundament'

“Yet we find that the guy who was appointed to this job was at the same time helping to advise the then prime minister on a murky, grubby arrangement deal with his messy finances.”

She added: “I don’t think that any reasonable person could see that this wasn’t a serious conflict of interest and didn’t have in some way shaped the prime minister’s view about the suitability of the candidate for the role. “

Speaking this morning, Johnson criticised the BBC for launching its internal review, saying it was "just another example of the BBC disappearing up its own fundament”.

He said: “This is a load of complete nonsense – absolute nonsense.

“Let me just tell you, Richard Sharp is a good and wise man but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – I can tell you that for 100 per cent ding dang sure."