Boris Johnson in 1986 during his time at Oxford University (Image: Reuters)
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Boris Johnson is facing a fresh cronyism row after one of his former Bullingdon Club pals was appointed to the independent sleaze watchdog.
Ewen Fergusson, who was pictured alongside David Cameron and Mr Johnson in the infamous 1987 snap of the elite Oxford dining club, will join the Committee on Standards in Public Life from next month.
The Government announced that the PM had appointed Mr Fergusson as an independent member to the committee, alongside Oxford University academic Professor Gillian Peele.
Their five-year terms start next month and they will be able to claim £240 per day in expenses.
Mr Fergusson was a partner at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills from 2000 to 2018 and is a non-magistrate member of the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee for South East England, according to his Cabinet Office biography.
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Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the committee, branded the appointment “pathetic” and demanded answers on why he would be a suitable committee member.
He said: “It’s sad that they’ve appointed somebody with a chumocracy background and they cannot give any reason why he is a good appointment.
“The fact that you’ve got to be a university mate of the prime minister or one of the other senior ministers is such a pathetic basis for making appointments.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This is more of the same Conservative cronyism. This Prime Minister does not even care to hide it.
“The Government must publish all the correspondence between the Cabinet Office, the panel and Downing Street relating to this appointment.
A photo of Ewen Fergusson from LinkedIn
“If it does not, it will confirm the suspicion that they think there is one rule for them and another for everyone else.”
The eight-person committee, chaired by ex-M15 boss Lord Evans, recently recommended a five-year ban on lobbying by former ministers after carrying out an emergency review in the wake of the Greensill scandal.
It has no formal investigatory powers but provides advice to the PM on ethics across public life.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Mr Fergusson applied through open and fair competition, following the Governance Code for Public Appointments.
“His application was carefully considered on its merits by the Advisory Assessment Panel, which interviewed him and found that he was appointable.”
Downing Street declined to say when Mr Johnson last spoke to Mr Fergusson or whether either had declared an interest.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “All the relevant rules were followed in this case and he was appointed through open and fair competition in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments.
“It obviously remains the case that the PM would declare anything he’s required to in the usual way.”