Ex-Bullingdon Club member appointed to Whitehall’s sleaze watchdog

A former Bullingdon Club member and university friend of 鲍里斯·约翰逊(Boris Johnson) has been appointed to Whitehall’s independent sleaze watchdog, the Guardian can disclose.

Ewen Fergusson, a City solicitor, was announced on Thursday as one of two new members for the committee on standards in public life. A Whitehall source said the appointment was approved by No 10.

Fergusson, who has spent most of his career at international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, appeared behind Johnson and two along from 大卫·卡梅伦(David Cameron) in the infamous 1987 photograph of the exclusive, male-only Oxford dining club. Permission to republish the photograph has since been withdrawn by Gillman & Soame, the Oxford portrait photographers who hold the copyright.

Fergusson’s appointment has enraged one former chair of the committee. Sir Alistair Graham, who held the role for four years until 2007, said the appointment was a “pathetic” attempt to recruit an old friend of the PM to an independent committee.

“It really is desperate if you have to be a university mate of Boris Johnson to qualify to sit on the committee that is supposed to examine sleaze. I doubt that the experience of the Bullingdon would provide any of the right qualifications. It seems like a completely inappropriate appointment,“ 他说.

The Bullingdon Club was an elite dining club which became notorious at Oxford for lavish rituals, opulent banquets and smashing up restaurants.

The committee advises the prime minister on ethical standards across public life. It can conduct inquiries, collecting evidence to assess institutions, policies and practices, and makes recommendations to Johnson where appropriate.

Fergusson, the son of a former UK ambassador to France, was a partner in the finance division at Herbert Smith Freehills from 2000 到 2018 and is now a non-magistrate member of the lord chancellor’s advisory committee for south-east England, according to his official Cabinet Office biography.

He was educated at Rugby school and reportedly met Johnson at Oriel College, 牛津. According to a 2008 report in the Daily Mail, Fergusson was one of six Bullingdon Club members who attended a fundraising event for Johnson’s London mayoral bid, held in Millbank Tower in Westminster.

The eight-strong committee is chaired by the former security chief Lord Evans. The remaining seven posts are made up of three appointments from political parties and four outside appointments approved by ministers.

A statement released on Thursday read: “The Cabinet Office has announced today that the prime minister has appointed Prof Gillian Peele and Ewen Fergusson as members of the committee on standards in public life, with effect from 1 August 2021.”

A spokesperson for the committee referred inquiries to the Cabinet Office.

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.”

According to the Cabinet Office, committee appointments are made by the prime minister on advice from Cabinet Office ministers such as Michael Gove, who are in turn advised by an advisory assessment panel.

The panel was made up of Evans, former children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, Vote Leave figure Baroness Gisela Stuart, and Darren Tierney, the director general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office.

Stuart last night declined to say whether Fergusson’s past friendship with Johnson was raised before the panel. “You take the specifications for the job and examine a person’s suitability for that job and ask whether they meet the criteria. That is all I want to say about it,“ 她说.