Laura Kuenssberg shamed for ‘completely untrue’ coverage – Sir James Dyson hits back

PMQs: Johnson clashes with Starmer on James Dyson texts

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Prominent Brexiteer Sir James is embroiled in a bitter row with the corporation over claims Mr Johnson promised him he would “fix” an issue over the tax status of his employees after the Prime Minister approached the billionaire entrepreneur directly. The exchanges occurred last March at the beginning of the pandemic, when the Government issued a blanket appeal to firms to help supply ventilators amid concerns the NHS was about to run out of capacity.

A report by Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s Political Editor, suggested Sir James was a prominent Conservative Party donor who had been seeking preferential treatment from the Government – claims he rejected out of hand.

Writing in the Telegraph, Sir James said his employees had “worked around the clock” to develop a new ventilator in 30 days, receiving an initial order of 10,000.

However, as the situation eased, the machines were not, in the end, required.

Sir James said: “We voluntarily forwent the chance to reclaim £20 million of costs from the Government.

“We have never claimed any Covid support, including furlough, for any of our businesses, from any government anywhere.

“And yet, it has been argued that in the PM’s direct dealings with me I was seeking some kind of preferment.”

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He asked: “What favours did anyone believe I was exacting from contact with the Prime Minister as part of a project where Dyson voluntarily donated £20 million of its resources?”

It had been “entirely the right thing” for Mr Johnson to contact him, Sir James insisted.

He added: “We have 4,000 people in the UK as well as global supply chains and advanced manufacturing expertise

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The BBC’s characterisation of me is completely untrue

Sir James Dyson

“Far from concealing the text exchanges, we shared them explicitly with officials at the Treasury and No 10 via email on March 28.”

Turning his attention to the corporation’s reporting, Sir James said: “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.

“I have met Boris Johnson only three times – always with officials – the last time in 2016. I have not attended any Conservative social events.”

Ms Kuenssberg’s portrayal of him as a frequent donor to the Tories was also inaccurate, Sir James said, and appeared to stem from a donation made by The James Dyson Foundation to the Wiltshire Engineering Festival, a claim he described as “staggering”.

He said: “She and the BBC made this grotesque mischaracterisation to justify their “sleaze” story which would otherwise simply not have stood up.

“The festival, run in 2016 and 2017, was attended by thousands of local school pupils to encourage young people into engineering.

“For the record, the total donations I have made to political causes in my entire life amount to £800.”

Mrs Kuenssberg also pointed out Sir James had spoken to the Conservative Party Conference in 2009 – but Sir James countered by highlighting his decision to address the Labour Party conference in 1998, on both occasions talking about engineering.

He declared: “I would change nothing about how Dyson reacted to this country’s Covid crisis.

“And you need only look at the UK’s vaccine programme to understand the value of independent action which can be swift, decisive and transcend global boundaries.”

The BBC has been contacted for comment.

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