Boris Johnson faced fresh claims of nepotism last night after it was revealed that charity bosses blocked a government bid to appoint his father as an ‘ambassador’ at last year’s COP26 climate change summit.
The WWF wildlife charity threw out a request by Environment Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith, a close friend of the prime minister and wife Carrie Johnson, to add Stanley Johnson, 81, to its team of experts at the United Nations conference.
A well-placed source told The Independent that the government was “desperate for Stanley to be able to go (to COP26) in an official capacity”.
The source said the request was turned down after a revolt by senior WWF figures who argued it would be “totally inappropriate”.
A WWF spokesperson told The Independent: ‘At no point was Stanley Johnson offered a role with us at COP26.’
A senior source at the charity said: ‘We were approached by the Environment Minister (Goldsmith) to give Stanley Johnson a role.’
Lord Goldsmith told The Independent: ‘I don’t remember what conversations I had about Stanley before COP26. But given his long record of working for the environment, he would have been an asset in any team.’
There has been recent speculation that the prime minister inquired about securing a knighthood for his father or may award him a peerage in his resignation honours list.
It was claimed last month that the prime minister tried to obtain his wife Carrie, like Mr Johnson senior, an environmental campaigner, a role as an ‘ambassador’ at COP26.
Separately, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has admitted inquiring about opportunities for Mrs Johnson at the Earthshot Prize, an initiative run by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Asked about the plan for him to attend COP26 with WWF, Stanley Johnson told The Independent: ‘This is all complete news to me. I think Zac explored opportunities for me to do things with them but that was nothing to do with COP26.’
Mr Johnson senior attended COP26 with the Conservative Environment Network.
It is not the first time that the environmental interests of the prime minister’s close family and friends have attracted controversy.
Lord Goldsmith is a former trustee of the Aspinall’s wildlife charity in Kent, which hired Mrs Johnson as head of communications.
His brother Ben Goldsmith continues to serve as a trustee.
It was revealed by The Independent in June (2022) that the Charity Commission had asked Aspinall’s chairman, casino owner Damian Aspinall to step down after an investigation into the charity’s finances.
It came after the charity’s 2021 accounts showed it paid more than £150,000 in “interior design services” to the chairman’s wife Victoria Aspinall in 2020.
The Aspinall Foundation said at the time that the fees charged by Mrs Aspinall were “subject to a rigorous benchmarking exercise to ensure the foundation received value for money”.
It was also reported last year that Mr and Mrs Johnson enjoyed a ‘free of charge’ holiday worth £25,000 at Lord Goldsmith’s Spanish villa.
Mrs Johnson’s first job with the Conservative Party was working for Lord Goldsmith in his former parliamentary seat of Richmond, Surrey.
When he lost the seat in the 2019 election Mr Johnson controversially awarded him a peerage a week later, allowing him to continue as Environment Minister.