Foreign secretary evades questions on latest Boris Johnson ‘sleaze’ allegations

Foreign secretary evades questions on latest Boris Johnson 'sleaze' allegations

The foreign secretary has evaded answering questions on the latest ‘sleaze’ allegations surrounding Boris Johnson to hit the Conservative Party.

James Cleverly was asked about a claim that the BBC chairman Richard Sharp helped the former prime minister arrange a guarantee on a loan of up to £800,000, weeks before he was then recommended for the job by Mr Johnson.

Mr Cleverly admitted he had not tried to contact the ex-PM to seek clarity on the situation today, telling Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “You’re the journalist not me.”

Labour has reported Mr Johnson to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following the report in the Sunday Times, which his spokesperson denied as “rubbish”.

The allegation comes amid continued questions over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs after the Tory party chairman admitted to a “careless not deliberate” error.

Pat McFadden, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said taken together the stories were damaging public trust in politicians and that is “really corrosive to governance”.

He told Sophy Ridge: “It’s very easy for the public to conclude that all politicians are the same and in it for themselves.

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I think with the Boris Johnson stuff, he almost relies on that level of cynicism so that people conclude, no scandal matters, nothing matters because that’s what they’re all like anyway.”

Asked if the report about Mr Johnson was true, Mr Cleverly said: “Well, I’ve not had a conversation with either of those parties about that situation.”

However, he insisted that, as far as he can see, Richard Sharp’s appointment as BBC chair was made on his merits.

“I have met with Richard, we discussed the (BBC) World Service, he struck me as an incredibly competent, experienced, thoughtful individual. I can see exactly why he has the attributes, both personal, professional, to be the chair of the BBC.

“So, as far as I can see, his appointment was made on those merits.”

Mr Cleverly also evaded questions over Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs, saying: “I don’t know any more detail than is in his public statement.”

Last night, the Tory party chairman and cabinet minister released a statement saying he wanted to “address some of the confusion” about his finances.

Cleverly says he’s ‘not an investigator’

Questions have swirled following an article in The Sun on Sunday, which claimed a seven-figure payment was made by Mr Zahawi to end a dispute with the taxman “after scrutiny of his family’s financial affairs”.

Mr Zahawi has now admitted he made an error but insisted this was “careless and not deliberate”.

However, it is still not clear whether he negotiated his tax settlement with HMRC while he was serving as chancellor in the closing days of the Johnson administration, or what Rishi Sunak knew when he appointed him party chairman.

“I’m not an investigator,” Mr Cleverly said when it was put to him that he was there to speak on behalf of the government.

Asked whether Mr Zahawi will survive in his role until Wednesday, Mr Cleverly said: “What else am I going to say other than yes, because he’s a very, very effective minister.”

However, Mr McFadden said his survival is “difficult” and what happens next will be a test to the prime minister, who vowed to turn over a new lead after Mr Johnson’s scandal-plagued premiership.