West News Wire: After an independent investigation determined that BBC Chair Richard Sharp had failed to disclose that he had assisted in setting up a loan of up to GBP 800,000 for (then) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in late 2020, the inquiry recommended that Sharp resign.
In January 2021, Mr. Sharp was given a job at the BBC that involves overseeing operational matters and maintaining connections with the government. Adam Heppinstall, the report’s author, had stated that even though there had been two rules violations, the appointment was still acceptable.
Mr. Sharp, who is a former investment banker and a Tory donor, was a boss of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, when they both worked at Goldman Sachs. At the end of 2020, Mr. Sharp introduced Canadian Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Mr Johnson, to Simon Case, head of the U.K. Civil Service.
Mr. Blyth had earlier expressed an interest in acting as a guarantor for a loan of £800,000 ($1 million) for Mr. Johnson who was going through a divorce and had a new baby, and was in a difficult financial situation. The Sunday Times was the first reported this story.
Mr. Johnson, a charismatic and disorganised politician who was elected prime minister in 2019 and oversaw Britain’s exit from the European Union the following year, has been linked to the downfall of a number of politicians and officials, including Mr. Sharp.
After a string of scandals involving money, ethics, and judgement became too much for his Conservative Party colleagues to handle, Mr. Johnson himself was forced to resign last year.
While he was in office, Mr. Johnson’s financial arrangements sparked inquiries into who paid for a trip for Mr. Johnson to the Caribbean island of Mustique as well as the funding of renovations to the Prime Minister’s official residence, known as the “cash for curtains” scandal.
Mr. Johnson was one of many individuals who received fines from the police last year for attending illegal parties in government premises when COVID-19 lockdowns were in effect. The “partygate” scandal hastened his premiership’s demise.
Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister, won’t have to decide whether to fire Mr. Sharp thanks to his resignation. After three turbulent years under Mr. Johnson and seven tumultuous weeks under his successor Liz Truss, who resigned in September after her tax-cutting economic plans caused financial mayhem, Mr. Sunak, a former banker who once worked for Mr. Sharp at Goldman Sachs, has attempted to restore stability to the government.
The Conservative government was accused by opposition parties of eroding the BBC’s objectivity.
As a result of the Conservatives’ sleaze and cronyism, “this breach has caused untold damage to the reputation of the BBC and seriously undermined its independence,” Labour Party culture spokeswoman Lucy Powell said.
The public broadcaster is regularly used as a political football, with some conservative government officials accusing it of having a leftist tilt and other liberals accusing it of doing the opposite.
When the BBC’s top sports broadcaster, former England soccer star Gary Lineker, questioned the government’s immigration policies on social media in March, it set off a furor over free speech and political bias.