Tories ban BBC publishing photos of Robert Jenrick and billionaire property developer at party fundraising dinner

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK

The Conservatives have banned the BBC from publishing pictures of Robert Jenrick and Richard Desmond at a party fundraising dinner.

It comes amid the row over property developer Desmond’s £1bn, 1,500-home scheme on the Isle of Dogs in east London, which communities secretary Jenrick signed off in January after contact with Desmond.

The BBC said it obtained separate pictures of Desmond and Jenrick at a prior Savoy Hotel dinner in which Boris Johnson spoke.

The pictures are owned by Conservative Party, with the BBC saying it was prevented from publishing them.

Planning row: Robert Jenrick and Richard Desmond. (Getty Images/PA)

A spokeswoman for the corporation told Yahoo News UK on Thursday: “We didn't use them for legal reasons.”

This website approached the Conservative Party to ask why it wouldn’t let the BBC publish the pictures, but has not received a response.

It comes as Johnson continues to stand by Jenrick.

Downing Street said on Thursday that the prime minister still has “full confidence” in Jenrick, adding Johnson had spoken to the embattled minister in recent days and “considers the matter closed”.

Robert Jenrick is facing calls to resign over the planning contraversy. (SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

Jenrick is nonetheless fighting to keep his job after documents revealed the extent of contact between himself and Desmond before signing off the Westferry Printworks scheme.

In the process, Jenrick overruled the decisions of both Tower Hamlets Council and a planning inspector.

Jenrick and Desmond exchanged text messages following a meeting at a Conservative Party fundraising event in November last year.

Officials in Jenrick’s department described him as being “insistent” that the project be given the green light before a new levy added millions to the cost.

Robert Jenrick signed off the Westferry Printworks development in January, but was forced to quash this ruling in May. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Desmond donated £12,000 to the Tories two weeks after Westferry was approved by Jenrick.

In May, Jenrick ultimately quashed his own approval, conceding the decision was “unlawful” due to “apparent bias”.

However, the row has continued to drag on, with Jenrick under growing pressure following the release of the documents.

After Downing Street restated its backing for Jenrick, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Here we go again the untouchables – the old boys network covering for each other. Disgusting! This isn’t a government it’s a farce. Not a spot of integrity amongst them.”

The party called on Jenrick to return to the House of Commons to explain his links with Desmond in the light of the documents, and to publish all the unreleased material relating to the case.

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