BBC chairman resigns after damning report into Boris Johnson loan

Sharp accused of "shamefully" clinging to his position for months

Richard Sharp

BBC chairman Richard Sharp has announced he will step down from his position following a report which found he breached the code on public appointments.

The report, published today, found Sharp did not properly disclose his involvement in the facilitation of a £800,000 loan promised to the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The former Conservative party donor was appointed to the role in 2021, with it later emerging that he had failed to reveal a secret £800,000 personal loan guarantee to Johnson.

He underwent an interrogation by MPs in February over alleged conflicts of interest and accusation of exemplifying a “pals appointing pals” establishment culture.  

In his resignation statement, Sharp said that the report, carried out by barrister Adam Hepinstall KC’s, showed he did breach the governance code for public appointments but that a breach, ‘does not necessarily invalidate an appointment’.

He said: “I have always maintained the breach was inadvertent and not material, which the facts he lays out substantiate.

“Nevertheless, I have decided that it is right to prioritise the interests of the BBC.”

He added that he wished, “with the benefit of hindsight”, that this “potential perceived conflict of interest was something I had considered to mention” and apologised for the “oversight”.

Sharp has donated more than £400,000 to the Tories over the years and most recently came under scrutiny when his charity the Sharp Foundation was examined over donations to right-wing political groups.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the breach has caused “untold damage to the reputation of the BBC” and “seriously undermined its independence as a result of the Conservatives’ sleaze and cronyism”.

The National Union of Journalists welcomed the resignation of Sharp following the ‘damning’ report and accused Sharp of “shamelessly” clinging to power for months.

“Richard Sharp has shamefully clung to his position as chair for months, whilst all around him could clearly see his time was up, so of course it is a relief and proper that he has now finally resigned,” Said Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary.

“He had lost the dressing room, he had lost the respect of senior figures in the broadcasting industry and besmirched the reputation of the BBC.

“Now the BBC must move on with a new chair who can help steer the corporation through difficult times and champion public service broadcasting.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said the BBC had been “dragged through the mud” over the appointment of Sharp and called for a “rigorous, transparent and independent process” to appoint the next BBC Chair.

Sharp will remain in post until June while the process to appoint his successor takes place.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

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