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Richard Sharp has said there was “no conflict of interest” over his role in helping Boris Johnson secure a loan before being appointed BBC chairman.

He said he is confident he was given the job “on merit” after an investigation was launched into his hiring.

The BBC is also reporting that Mr Sharp has no plans to stand down despite scrutiny of his appointment.

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The former banker has confirmed he introduced his close friend Sam Blyth to cabinet secretary Simon Case in late 2020, to discuss whether Mr Blyth could act as a guarantor for a loan facility for Mr Johnson.

The talks took place while Mr Johnson was still prime minister, and while Mr Sharp was in the process of applying to be BBC chair.

In an interview with the broadcaster today, Mr Sharp said that a decision was made by Mr Case that there was no conflict of interest, nor the perception of one.

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He said: “Having had a discussion with the cabinet secretary about avoiding a conflict – and the perception of conflict – I felt comfortable and I still feel there was no conflict because at that stage what I was seeking to do was to ensure the process was followed exactly by the book, and that the process hadn’t started, of any kind, in terms of any support that Sam [Blyth] was going to provide to the prime minister.”

Mr Blyth is a multimillionaire Canadian businessman and distant relative of Mr Johnson.

The Sunday Times reported he ended up being a guarantor of a loan of £800,000 to the former PM, who oversaw Mr Sharp’s appointment.

Timeline

November 2020:
According to the Sunday Times the loan guarantee was first suggested by Canadian millionaire Sam Blyth during a dinner with Richard Sharp.

Early December 2020:
In early December, Richard Sharp put Sam Blyth in contact with the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case.

Late 2020:
Before the end of the year, Richard Sharp and Sam Blyth met with Boris Johnson for dinner at his country residence, Chequers. They insist the prime minister’s finances were not discussed.

January 2021:
At the start of January, the government announced Richard Sharp as the preferred candidate to be BBC chairman.

Asked if he thought he had misled a parliamentary committee or the advisory panel which picked him, Mr Sharp said: “No, I don’t.”

He added: “I had clarified and agreed with the cabinet secretary, both of us had the judgment that I’d avoided a conflict or a perception of conflict.”

Pressed on whether the row was an issue at a time when the BBC is making efforts to be impartial and highlight transparency, Mr Sharp told his own news channel: “Well look I see attacks on the BBC all the time, from the media, and for example social media, and they attack our impartiality.

“And I think the governance we put in place is extremely strong on impartiality and I’ll be talking about it later today, precisely because we should be judged by our output. “

The BBC is reviewing any conflict of interests related to Mr Sharp’s role while William Shawcross, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, has opened an investigation into the competition which led to his appointment.

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Johnson says Richard Sharp ‘knows nothing’ about his finances

Labour has also reported Mr Johnson to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, saying the former prime minister’s financial affairs are “dragging the Conservative Party deeper into yet another quagmire of sleaze”.

On Monday, Mr Johnson told Sky News that Mr Sharp “knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – I can tell you that for 100% ding-dang sure”.

Rishi Sunak, who is under pressure over Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, has sought to distance himself from the controversy, saying saying Mr Sharp’s appointment was made by “one of my predecessors”.

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Lee Anderson suspended from Conservative Party after ‘Islamophobic’ comments

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Lee Anderson has been suspended from the Conservative party after ‘Islamophobic’ comments.

A spokesperson for Chief Whip Simon Hart said: “Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the Chief Whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP.”

Speaking on GB News this week, Mr Anderson, MP for Ashfield, said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

Earlier today Sadiq Khan accused the prime minister of being “complicit” in racism for failing to condemn Mr Anderson‘s comments that “pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred”.

Mr Khan said the claim by the former deputy chairman of Tory party were Islamophobic and sent the message that Muslims were “fair game” when it came to racism.

The remarks prompted criticism from Labour and some Tories, including former cabinet minister Sajid Javid who branded them “ridiculous”.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

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King Charles shown chuckling at get well card featuring dog in a head cone

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King Charles shown chuckling at get well card featuring dog in a head cone

The King has been shown having a chuckle at cards sent by well-wishers, including one of a dog with the caption “at least you don’t have to wear a cone!”.

The 75-year-old monarch has been sent around 7,000 messages of support from around the world since his cancer diagnosis.

Newly released images and footage show King Charles looking through some of them at his desk in Buckingham Palace’s Belgian Suite.

King Charles III reads cards and messages, sent by wellwishers following his cancer diagnosis.
Pic:PA
Image:
The photos show the King in Buckingham Palace’s Belgian Suite. Pic: PA

He seemed particularly tickled by a card featuring an illustration of a terrier-like dog in a head cone, recovering from medical treatment.

Pets often wear plastic collars after an operation, to stop them aggravating a wound or stitches.

Other cards spread out in front of the King include one that reads “Your Majesty Get Well Soon”, while a number appear to be hand-drawn by children.

Many have related their own experience of cancer, with messages such as: “Chin up, chest out, remain positive and don’t let it get you down.”

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“Never give up. Be brave. Don’t push your limits. Get Well Soon,” says one note from a child.

Those who’ve included their address will be sent a message of thanks.

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Messages ‘reduced me to tears’

The King was pictured reading the cards on Wednesday – the same day he met the prime minister for their weekly audience.

He told Rishi Sunak that he’d been “reduced to tears” by the public’s support.

The monarch was speaking to Mr Sunak in their first face-to-face meeting since it was announced he had a “form of cancer”.

“I’ve had so many wonderful messages and cards, it has reduced me to tears most of the time,” King Charles told the prime minister.

He added: “I hear there has been a lot more potential attention on those main, wonderful cancer charities, many of which I have been a patron of for years.”

The King had been mostly staying at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk following his first round of treatment in London.

Buckingham Palace announced on 5 February that cancer had been discovered while undergoing a procedure for an enlarged prostate.

The Palace has not released details about the type of cancer or the treatment.

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Professional golfer Georgia Ball can ‘see the funny side’ after ‘mansplaining’ TikTok video goes viral

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Professional golfer Georgia Ball can 'see the funny side' after 'mansplaining' TikTok video goes viral

Professional female golfer Georgia Ball has said she can “see the funny side” after a video of an amateur player “mansplaining” to her about her swing went viral.

Ball, a certified PGA pro and instructor, also told Sky Sports she did not put the man in his place during the “awkward” conversation because she is a “humble person”.

The TikTok video of the incident she shared earlier this week has had more than 10 million views and over 26,000 comments, with many social media users mocking the man for “mansplaining”.

In the clip, Ball, who regularly shares instructional videos on her account, is seen practising her swing at a driving range near Liverpool.

A man off camera then says: “Excuse me, what you’re doing there, you shouldn’t be doing that… swing and follow through.”

He goes on to tell her that she is “too slow on the way up”.

Ball explains she is going through a “swing change” – something golfers regularly do to improve their technique.

However, the man continues: “I know, but what you’re doing there is you’re coming back too slow.

“I’ve been playing golf for 20 years, what you need to do is follow through a lot quicker than what you’re doing there right now.”

She explains again that she is going through a swing change, but the man continues to advise that she needs to move her club quicker.

Ball then cleanly strikes the ball into the distance before the man says: “See how much better that was?”

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The professional golfer explains once again that she is practising a swing change, before the man repeats that he “has been playing for 20 years” and that she should carry on playing the way he has advised her to.

Ball then laughs, before sarcastically adding: “Thanks for your advice.”

Asked by Sky Sports how she felt during the interaction, Ball said: “It was an awkward conversation at the time but I was just concentrating on what I was doing… I am glad I can look back on it now and see the funny side to it.”

When asked if she was ever tempted to put the man in his place, she said: “To be honest, I am a humble person, it is not in me to call him out or say I am a PGA pro, it is just not in me to do that.”

Ball added that she never got the chance to see the man hit a ball, so was unable to pass comment on his swing.

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