Politics

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak still supports BBC chairman Richard Sharp, despite revelations about the part he played in securing an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson, his spokesman has said.

Mr Sharp took the role in January 2021 after being recommended by then-PM Mr Johnson and having his appointment approved by a committee of MPs.

But it has now emerged that in the weeks before, the Tory Party donor had introduced a distant cousin of the ex-PM, Sam Blyth, to the head of the Cabinet Office, as the Canadian businessman wanted to offer financial help to Mr Johnson.

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The digital, culture, media and sport committee released a report over the weekend criticising Mr Sharp for failing to mention the exchanges during his appointment process, saying he had made “significant errors of judgement” and should “consider the impact his omissions will have” on public trust in the broadcaster.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy also told Sky News that Mr Sharp’s position was becoming “increasingly untenable”.

But speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said the BBC chairman still retained the support of the PM, adding he was “confident the right process was followed”.

BBC News says it understands the BBC board is going to be meeting on Monday, with one source having told them there were no scheduled meetings planned this month.

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Sky News’s Rob Powell explains why the scandal matters

Earlier, Mr Sunak was asked about the ongoing controversy by broadcasters but would not go as far as offering up his personal support for the chairman.

Instead, he pointed to the ongoing review being carried out by the the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments – whose chair had to recuse himself from the investigation due to knowing Mr Sharp – and said he would wait for the outcome.

“This relates to a process that happened before I was prime minister obviously,” said Mr Sunak. “It is currently being looked at by the independent officer of public appointments and that process is ongoing so I can’t speculate or prejudge the outcome of that.

“But it is an independent process that is going to look at it and make sure everything was followed correctly, all the rules [and] procedures were adhered to, and obviously we will wait for that report.”

A spokesperson for Mr Sharp has said he “regrets” not telling MPs about his association with Mr Blyth “and apologises”.

“It was in seeking at the time to ensure that the rules were followed, and in the belief that this had been achieved, that Mr Sharp acted in good faith in the way he did,” the spokesperson added.

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