Boris Johnson embroiled in new finance row

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Boris Johnson has been urged to open up about his financial affairs and end his Conservative leadership aspirations as the former prime minister became embroiled in another spat over money.

The Prime Minister is said to have secured an £800,000 line of credit when he was number 10 backed by a millionaire’s relative who was suggested for a top role at a quango.

Canadian businessman Sam Blyth agreed to guarantee the huge credit facility for his distant cousin in December 2020 before closing in February 2021, a newspaper report claimed.

Labor condemned the lack of transparency surrounding the “supposedly shady financial schemes”, and called for No 10 to clarify exactly who Johnson had received money and other benefits from when he was prime minister.

Tory MPs said the latest questions about Mr Johnson’s finances, which came shortly after damning new Partygate claims, showed exactly why he was not a “suitable character” to be prime minister.

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Asked about the massive £800,000 credit line, former Tory minister Caroline Nokes said there was no way he could return. “Boris was a certain politician for a certain time… but this is not his time. We need sensible, mature politicians,” she told the TBEN Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

“It should help kill any chance he has of coming back,” one backbencher told me TBEN. “He was not a suitable character to be prime minister. The stories about Partygate and his finances would keep coming if he tried to come back.

Another Sunak-backed Tory MP said the huge line of credit Johnson got at number 10 “reminds us why so many people were concerned about him as a leader”.

They added: “But some MPs just don’t care because he has such a unique character. You still can’t rule out a comeback push because there’s a hardcore group that thinks we did wrong by getting rid of him.”

Natwest Bank chairman Sir Howard Davies also criticized Johnson, suggesting markets would react very badly to any attempted comeback. “Running the country is not like running its own finances, where it seems there are mysterious people willing to fill any budget gap,” he told the TBEN.

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The Cabinet Office’s decency and ethics team reportedly approved the £800,000 credit scheme in December 2020 after Mr Johnson sought advice from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the Sunday Times reported.

Mr Johnson’s Canadian cousin, the guarantor of the credit line, was eligible to serve as chief executive of the British Council, a non-departmental public body, when the guarantee schemes came into effect, according to the newspaper.

But Mr Case and the Cabinet Office officials would not have been aware of Mr Blyth’s application for the quango as they were assured there were no conflicts of interest. And Mr Johnson insisted he was unaware of Mr Blyth’s appearance on a recommended list for the British Council position.

A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “Boris Johnson has in no way assisted in, and was not aware of, any application by Sam Blyth, whether formal or informal, to serve in any capacity with the British Council, nor was there anyone in No 10 acting on his behalf.”

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There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Blyth, allegedly a friend of Mr Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson. The Canadian told the Sunday Times: “I am aware of the statement made by Boris Johnson and can confirm the accuracy of his account.”

The former Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, is said to have had free use of Mr Blyth’s villa in the Dominican Republic in early 2022, before Mr Johnson and the entire family went on holiday there in October.

Mr. Johnson has argued that use of the villa in the Dominican Republic did not need to be registered because the free use came from a family member who provided a personal benefit. “All of Boris Johnson’s financial interests have been and have been properly declared,” a spokesman said.

Boris and Carrie Johnson outside number 10

(Getty Images)

Labor party leader Anneliese Dodds said: “Boris Johnson was never fit for office. These alleged shady financial schemes only confirm this fact. This raises the question of why this scheme has not been made public.”

She added: “The public has a right to know when significant gifts and loans are being made to leaders to avoid any suggestion of undue influence. Will No. 10 or the Conservative party confirm who Johnson received money from when he was in No. 10, why this was not properly declared and what these wealthy individuals got in return?”

The final revelations will come later TBEN revealed a bitter division among warring Tories over whether Mr Johnson should be reinstated as leader given his history of scandal.

Liberal Democrat leader Wendy Chamberlain MP said: “It is obvious he is filling his coffers and plotting a comeback. This disgraced prime minister should not have one. Johnson must publicly rule out a comeback.”

Analysis by TBEN shows Mr Johnson raised over £2.6 million in income, donations and benefits in kind in the last year alone.

The total includes outside earnings of just over £1.3m over the past 12 months as the former Prime Minister entered the speaking circuit after leaving No. 10 in September.

Mr Johnson has also received just £1.2 million in donations and hospitality, gifts and benefits in kind – including a £1 million donation from Brexiteer businessman Christopher Harbourne and accommodation worth just over £60,000 from Lord Bamford and Lady Bamford.

It was also revealed that Mr Johnson had put a dinner of more than £4,000 on a government credit card while with staff in New York for a September 2021 meeting of the UN General Assembly.

The £4,445.07 bill for the meal at Smith & Wollensky’s enjoyed by Mr Johnson and his retinue was raised in a question from Labour. “While families are sick with worry as they struggle to make ends meet, this waste of public money is obscene,” said deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner.

Secretary of State David Rutley said: “Expenditures were subject to normal FCDO controls and appropriate use of government funds.”