The prime minister is facing new questions over claims he helped secure attention for Russian-born newspaper baron Evgeny Lebedev.
The owner of The Evening Standard and Independent, whose father was a high-ranking KGB officer turned financier, was made a warlord in 2020, despite concerns by the security services.
Sunday Times announced that Boris Johnson visited Lebedev at his home on 19 March 2020, two days after the House Nominations Committee (Holac) declined his nomination based on intelligence provided by MI5 and MI6.
The paper also said the security services had withdrawn their warning – that bringing Lebedev into the Lords posed a national security risk – after Johnson intervened. While Holac checks the ranks, the prime minister has the final say. Johnson “promoted his friend’s nomination”, claimed the article, and in November 2020 Lebedev became Baron Lebedev of Hampton and Siberia.
Robert Peston says in Audiencecovers the “exact concerns” of MI5 and MI6 and what was said at the March 19 meeting.
But another question, Peston said, is “why is this an issue at a time when protecting the nation from coronavirus is an obvious priority?” This is March 2020, when “Covid-19 is on these shores in scale” and Downing Street is facing “the worst crisis since the second world war”.
And why is Johnson, as one of Peston’s sources put it, “obsessed with the enjoyment of being licensed”?
The journalist suggested that the Prime Minister was closer to Ledebev, a dual British national whose Evening Standard supported Johnson when he was mayor of London, “than any other owner”. “Johnson will come every fall to stay at Lebedev’s sumptuous castle in Umbria for a social weekend – sometimes flying on Lebedev’s private jet,” adds Peston.
Labor has demanded an investigation, with shadow secretary Yvette Cooper calling on Johnson to disclose to the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee “full information” about his role in the process.
European Minister James Cleverly used this information to protect Lebedev’s publicity on BBC Radio 4 Today program this morning, said: “I think it’s pretty flying in the face of accusations that he’s somehow distorting the face of British politics if he doesn’t vote on British legislation.”
“Seems to be completely undermining the Lords,” Cleverly said, adding that there were “a lot of” peers “who are not active members of the House of Commons,” saying HuffPost. The minister also warned that “we need to be careful to suggest or imply that people of Russian origin are somehow unfit to enter public life”.
Johnson called the Sunday Times’ claims “simply inaccurate” and said it would be “obviously extraordinary” if he intervened. He also warned of a Russian “witch hunt” in Britain, saying it would fall into Moscow’s hands.
Meanwhile, Lebedev, who last week attractive to Putin To prevent Invasion of Ukrainetold The Sunday Times that “all” the allegations in its reporting were incorrect and the questions did not “deserve an answer”.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/politics/956001/the-questions-over-evgeny-lebedevs-peerage Questions about the penetration of Evgeny Lebedev