Michael Gove today pleaded for critics to wait for ‘all the evidence’ amid a row over whether the BBC chairman helped Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan.
The Cabinet minister called for ‘all the facts’ to be set out before conclusions are drawn about Richard Sharp’s involvement in the ex-prime minister’s financial affairs.
Mr Sharp was involved in talks about financial help for Mr Johnson in late 2020.
The discussions took place just weeks before the then-PM recommended Mr Sharp for the role as BBC chairman.
A loan of up to £800,000 guaranteed by Mr Johnson’s distant cousin, Sam Blyth – a Canadian businessman who is an old friend of Mr Sharp – has been revealed to have been arranged to help Mr Johnson deal with financial troubles while in No10.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp was involved in talks about financial help for Boris Johnson in late 2020
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove today pleaded for critics to wait for ‘all the evidence’ amid the row
In further claims, the Sunday Times today reported that Mr Johnson was formally told by officials to stop asking Mr Sharp for ‘advice’ about his ‘personal financial matters’.
According to the newspaper, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case issued advice to Mr Johnson in the days before Mr Sharp’s appointment as BBC chairman was announced.
It reportedly stated: ‘Given the imminent announcement of Richard Sharp as the new BBC chair, it is important that you no longer ask his advice about your personal financial matters.’
Mr Johnson has insisted that Mr Sharp ‘knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – let me tell you that for 100 per cent ding dang sure’.
Downing Street has also denied the appointment of Mr Sharp was an example of ‘cronyism’ and insisted hiring processes were ‘properly’ followed.
But William Shawcross, the comissioner for public appointments, is reviewing the process used to appoint Mr Sharp.
Meanwhile, Mr Sharp himself – a former Goldman Sachs banker and an ex-adviser to Rishi Sunak when the current PM was Chancellor – has ordered an internal BBC review into any possible ‘conflicts of interest’.
Mr Sharp has said he was ‘not involved in making a loan, or arranging a guarantee and I did not arrange any financing’.
He has stressed his role was limited to introducing Mr Blyth ‘to the relevant official in Government’.
Mr Gove was today quizzed about how Mr Johnson’s denial that Mr Sharp has knowledge of his financial affairs tallies with the Sunday Times’ revelation of a formal warning by officials.
‘I don’t know about the conversations that were carrying on,’ the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary told Sky News.
‘I know that, and I’ve seen it happen in the past, that there’s a letter here, a note there, a comment there. It points towards one conclusion.
‘Once you know all the evidence, actually, another conclusion can fairly be drawn.’
Mr Gove admitted that he could ‘completely recognise how you can produce two pieces of evidence and a conclusion can be drawn’.
But he added: ‘I know from experience in the past, including when I’ve jumped to conclusions about people and then found that actually I’d been unfair on them, that we just need to see all the facts.’
William Shawcross, the comissioner for public appointments, is reviewing the process used to appoint Mr Sharp
Mr Gove said the purpose of Mr Shawcross’s inquiry was to ‘make sure that everything’s completely kosher’.
‘It’s absolutely understandable to think ‘Aha, this plus this equals that’, but my bitter experience is wait until we see all the facts before coming to a definitive conclusion,’ he said.
Mr Gove also rejected a suggestion Mr Johnson was becoming a ‘liability’ for Downing Street, adding: ‘I think Boris Johnson was a very good PM and I think that he has a lot to contribute to public life in the future.’
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: ‘Throughout this process, as the material The Sunday Times has obtained demonstrates, Mr Johnson followed advice and took the necessary steps to ensure probity. All declarations were made properly.’
The Cabinet Office said it did not comment on leaks.
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