Sir James Dyson has said it was untrue that he tried to “extract favours from the Prime Minister” over text messages about his company.
The billionaire further alleged that the BBC twisted his words on the matter.
A text message exchange between Dyson and Boris Johnson was leaked to the BBC last week. In the message, Dyson asked Johnson if he could help with additional taxes his manufacturing firm may face should staff travel to the UK for its coronavirus ventilator project.
“The BBC’s characterisation of me as a prominent Conservative donor, or supporter, leveraging a position of power to extract favours from the Prime Minister, is completely untrue,” Dyson wrote in an article for The Daily Telegraph on 28 April.
Dyson said the BBC had made a “grotesque mischaracterisation” of his links to the Tories and denied any major involvement with the political party.
“I have met Boris Johnson only three times – always with officials – the last time in 2016. I have not attended any Conservative social events.”
A BBC spokesperson told the newspaper that it corrected its coverage following clarification from Dyson. The BBC was contacted for further comment.
Both Johnson and Dyson have faced intense scrutiny about the conversation, which shed further light on the way private sector figures can lobby the government via unorthodox means.
The exchange came in the wake of a similar text message conversation between Chancellor Rishi Sunak and former prime minister David Cameron, linked to the latter’s role as an adviser for Greensill Capital.
Dyson said donations by his foundation of more than £11,000 in 2016 and 2017 to a Conservative MP were for a local engineering festival. This was supported by notes in the MP’s declaration to parliament.
The British entrepreneur was an ardent supporter of the UK’s exit from the European Union in 2016 and has remained vocal on that subject. He recently relocated back to the UK after moving to Singapore along with a large portion of his company’s operations since the referendum.
“For the record, the total donations I have made to political causes in my entire life amount to £800,” Dyson wrote, adding that he had also given speeches at both Conservative and Labour conferences in his time.
“We voluntarily forwent the chance to reclaim £20m of costs from the government. We have never claimed any Covid support, including furlough, for any of our businesses, from any government anywhere,” the businessman said, referring to the amount his firm spent on creating ventilators for hospitals during the pandemic.
“And yet it has been argued that, in the PM’s direct dealings with me, I was seeking some kind of preferment. What favours did anyone believe I was exacting from contact with the Prime Minister as part of a project where Dyson voluntarily donated £20m of its resources?”
The UK’s Cabinet Office is conducting an investigation into the matter.
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