Jobs for the boys: Boris Johnson Bullingdon Club pal appointed to sleaze watchdog

Old boy network: RONA MARSDEN image Artist's impression of Ewen Fergusson (circled) with Boris Johnson and other Bullingdon members in 1987

The old boy’s network AKA Cronyism

Boris Johnson has appointed Ewen Fergusson a fellow Bullingdon Club boy to a role advising him on ethical standards in public life.

Former lawyer Ewen Fergusson will begin a five-year stint on the Committee on Standards in Public Life next month.

He was a member of Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club at the same time as the prime minister.

No 10 rejected the cronyism allegation, saying the role had been filled by “open and fair competition”.

Fergusson can be seen as part of the infamous picture from 1987 that includes former prime minister David Cameron (second from top left) and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Bullingdon Club was a notorious elite dining society at Oxford University.

Johnson has appointed his university friend, to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which recently carried out a review of lobbying laws after the Greensill scandal spurned by Cameron another Bullingdon Club boy who lobbied senior ministers for help with Covid funds.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life – established in 1994 can initiate inquiries, make recommendations to the Prime Minister and assess government policies and practice. 

Former committee chair Sir Alistair Graham slammed the ‘pathetic’ appointment and pointed to the ‘chumocracy’ label hurled at the Government earlier this year.

He told the Times: ‘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.’

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told the Times of Fergusson’s appointment: ‘The application was carefully considered on its merits by the advisory assessment panel, which interviewed him and found he was appointable’.    

At present, Fergusson works as a non-magistrate member of the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee and spends his time producing independent film projects.  

Fergusson was educated at Rugby’s independent boarding school and met Mr Johnson while studying as a graduate of Oriel College, Oxford University and the Rugby School, Mr Fergusson is the son of former British ambassador to France and Scotland international rugby player, Sir Ewen Fergusson, who passed away in 2017.

Fergusson and Johnson were snapped together along with the former Chancellor George Osborn and Former prime minister David Cameron in formal attire alongside former Prime Minister David Cameron at a Bullingdon Club event in 1987. 

But their relationship extended beyond their university years, with Fergusson present at a 2008 fundraising event for Mr Johnson’s run at London Mayor. 

The Bullingdon Club is a private all-male dining club for Oxford University students. It is known for its wealthy members, grand banquets, and bad behaviour, including vandalism of restaurants and students’ rooms. The club is known to select its members not only on the grounds of wealth and willingness to partake but also by means of education. Former pupils of public schools such as Eton, Harrow, Stowe School, Radley, Shrewsbury, Sedbergh, Rugby, Westminster, Charterhouse, St. Paul’s, and Winchester form the bulk of its membership.

(1) Sebastian Grigg, 4th Baron Altrincham and then chairman of Credit Suisse (UK)

(2) David Cameron, the former Tory prime minister

(3) Ralph Perry Robinson, a former child actor, designer, furniture-maker

(4) Ewen Fergusson, son of the late British ambassador to France, Sir Ewen Fergusson and now at City law firm Herbert Smith

(5) Matthew Benson, the heir to the Earldom of Wemyss and March

(6) Sebastian James, the son of Lord Northbourne, a major landowner in Kent

(7) Jonathan Ford, the-then president of the club, a banker with Morgan Grenfell

(8) Boris Johnson, the-then president of the Oxford Union, now Prime minister

9) Harry Eastwood, the investment fund consultant

The Bullingdon was originally a sporting club, dedicated to cricket and horse-racing, although club dinners gradually became its principal activity. Membership is expensive, with tailor-made uniforms, regular gourmet hospitality, and a tradition of on-the-spot payment for damage. The club has attracted controversy, as some members have gone on to become leading figures within Britain’s political establishment. These include former Prime Minister David Cameron, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson.


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