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Andrew Marr says ‘it would be much better for the BBC if Richard Sharp stepped aside’
23 January 2023, 19:04 | Updated: 25 January 2023, 17:58
Andrew Marr has called on the BBC Chairman Richard Sharp to step down following claims he was involved in the approval of a £800k loan to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Speaking tonight, Marr said: "It would be much better for the BBC if Richard Sharp stepped aside".
He added: "The rules on public appointments are clear: you have to be absolutely frank about any possible conflict of interest."
His comments follow the news a watchdog will look into the BBC Chairman's appointment following claims that, shortly before taking on the position, Mr Sharp helped the soon-to-be Prime Minister secure a loan guarantee agreement.
Led by William Shawcross, the Commissioner for Public Appointments confirmed to labour the start of a review.
Elaborating on the situation, Marr said: "The following facts don't seem to be in contention. Even when he was prime minister, Boris Johnson needed money, and lots of it."
"Mr Sharp was an old friend and working with another old friend Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Johnson's, he helped discuss a loan for the PM worth up to £800,000. He was working at Number 10 and informed the cabinet secretary Simon Case, which was proper.
Marr continued: "Sharp himself says he was not involved in making a loan or arranging a guarantee or any financing."
Highlighting the "cosy" nature of Johnson and Sharp's relationship, Marr added: "a lot of people in this country think, to put this very crudely, that it's in the pockets of the Tory Party already - that the point of having a Tory chairman is to cut deals with a Tory government."
Questioning whether Mr Sharp told the BBC board before he was appointed how close his relationship with Boris Johnson was, Marr highlighted the Chairman didn’t disclose the close relationship to the Commons culture committee.
"Sharp was not only a friend of that Prime Minister, but a long-term Tory donor and he was once the boss of the current prime minister Rishi Sunak.
Marr added that "there's a much bigger point here than process", continuing to highlight that many BBC chairs have roots in politics, listing Marmaduke Hussey, Gavyn Davies and Chris Patten to name but a few.
He continued: "These are new times, much harder times for the BBC. There is immense public scepticism about the organisation, attacked with a fury on social media as it never was in the old days.
"A lot of people in this country think, to put this very crudely, that it's in the pockets of the Tory Party already - that the point of having a Tory chairman is to cut deals with a Tory government."
"So, in this new context, this Sharp and Johnson story is toxic - a chairman who had wanted to sort the private finances of a highly controversial Tory prime minister and who is closely connected to the current one.
"It looks cosy in a way the country hates. I'm not being in any way personal but it would be much better for the BBC if Richard Sharp stepped aside, and a new chair could be found who wasn't party political or so deeply steeped in senior Tory circles.