BBC chairman Richard Sharpe has been told his job is off the table after MPs ruled he made “serious errors of judgement” while secretly helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan.
Shadow cabinet minister Lisa Nundy said “friendship is dragging the BBC down”, their relationship “looks increasingly murky” and Mr Sharp should stand down. The case was “a bit of banana republic”, the SNP’s John Nicolson warned the committee investigating it. He said Mr Sharp had “lost the confidence of BBC staff”.
Long-time Conservative donor Mr Sharpe – a former Goldman Sachs banker – was surprise appointed as BBC chairman in January 2021.
In September 2020 he was approached by Sam Blythe, a wealthy friend who told him he wanted to help Mr Johnson, who was facing financial difficulties due to a divorce and renovation of his No. 10 flat.
Mr Sharpe met Johnson before seeing Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to inform him of Blyth’s bid in December 2020.
Mr Johnson endorsed his nomination the following month, but Mr Sharp did not mention the prime minister’s help when asked about potential conflicts of interest by the cross-party Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
It was brought back before the committee last week after news of the deal broke. And yesterday he concluded that he had broken the rules. “Mr Sharp should consider the impact his failings will have on confidence in him, the BBC and the public appointments process,” the committee wrote.
“His decision to participate in the loan facility to the then prime minister while simultaneously applying for a job that was in the gift of the same person, and then not disclosing that material relationship, were significant errors of judgment. “, he added.
Mr Sharp said he “appreciated that there was information that the committee felt should have been disclosed. He regrets it and apologizes.’
Ms Nandy said: “Sharp’s position is becoming increasingly untenable.” But Tory peer Lord Vesey said he had not committed a “hanging offence”.
He added: “I’m slightly amused by people who pretend they’ve had a vaping attack and need the smelling salts to get through.”
Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said it would be up to the BBC’s board to decide on Mr Sharp’s future following a separate inquiry by the public appointments commissioner.
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