"If Boris Johnson approaches run a mile".
Friends of former BBC chairman Richard Sharp have claimed he was told by a senior Downing Street official he had “done nothing wrong” just weeks before he was forced to resign over his involvement with an £800,000 loan given to Boris Johnson.
Sharp quit the top BBC job in late April after a report found he had breached public appointment rules by failing to declare involvement in the loan to Johnson.
Simon Case, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, was approached by Sharp about the matter in a meeting in December 2020, before Sharp was appointed chairman of the BBC. According to allies of Sharp, Case told him that he had not acted improperly and was “on the side of the angels” in seeking to facilitate the loan, reported The Telegraph.
“A word of advice for anyone who has worked hard to acquire a reputation they cherish,” wrote Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian: “if Boris Johnson approaches… run a mile.” Sharp’s resignation is “the latest proof that, even out of office, Johnson continues to act as reputational napalm, laying waste careers and turning good names bad”.
The former chairman joins a “long list” of once-respected figures who have been “diminished by their contact” with Johnson, wrote Freedland, who dubbed Johnson “the reverse Midas, the man who rots everything he touches”.
As Sharp prepares for some time in the wilderness, The Week took a look at some of those who have felt the anti-Midas effect of Boris Johnson.
Sharp is set to step down in June, but Case may not be far behind after being caught up in the debacle and heavily criticised for his handling of the affair.
The Telegraph reported that Case could soon “step aside” now that the coronation of King Charles III is over, and is said to believe his proximity to Boris Johnson has “undermined his reputation”, according to sources close to him.
The 44-year-old, who became the youngest cabinet secretary in over a century when he was appointed in 2020, is said to be “bitter” over his close association with the former prime minister. Case believes his subsequent involvement with scandals linked to Johnson – such as Partygate and the appointment of Sharp as BBC chairman – has “damaged his career”, said The Telegraph.
But other sources have argued that Case was at least partly responsible for the damage done to his career. “It’s not as though he didn’t know what Boris Johnson was like,” one source said. “He presumably went into it with his eyes wide open.”
Revelations that he sent mocking WhatsApp messages about cabinet ministers during the pandemic have also injured his reputation, added the Telegraph. The paper cited allegations that his messages “compromised the Civil Service’s political neutrality”
public consciousness” in December 2021, when ITV obtained a video in which Downing Street staff were joking about an alleged Christmas party that was held in No.10 during the December 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, said Politics.co.uk.
Working as Boris Johnson’s press secretary at the time, Stratton was shown in a mock news conference in which she was responding to questions from colleagues. One question referred to a Christmas gathering in which cheese and wine were involved, joking: “This fictional party was a business meeting, and it was not socially distanced.”
Stratton was forced to resign after a public backlash to the video, even though there was “no suggestion that the Prime Minister’s former spokeswoman broke any rules herself”, said Martha Gill in The New Statesman, “she resigned because she had been recorded laughing at the challenge before her: how to defend Boris Johnson should the press get wind of the parties” that took place in Downing Street during national lockdowns.