The government has been warned it needs to make the sleaze watchdog more diverse after a former member of the same Oxford University club attended by Boris Johnson was appointed to the committee.
Lord Evans, chair of the committee on standards in public life, wrote to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, to say he and fellow committee members have “expressed concerns about our lack of visible diversity now as a group”.
The chairman, a former security chief, said he was writing after Professor Gillian Peele, a former Oxford University politics professor, and Ewen Fergusson, a City lawyer, were appointed to the committee last month.
He wrote the letter on 23 July, days after their appointments, but the letter has only been released now.
There are currently seven white British members of the independent committee and one Indian, according to the committee’s website.
Both new appointees were approved by Number 10, including Mr Fergusson, who was a member of the exclusive male-only Bullingdon Club at Oxford University and was pictured with Mr Johnson and David Cameron in a 1987 photo of its members.
Permission to republish the photograph has since been withdrawn by the photographers.
The club became notorious at Oxford for its extreme rituals, ostentatious dinners and smashing up restaurants – as immortalised in the 2014 film, The Riot Club.
Former chair of the committee, Sir Alistair Graham, called Mr Fergusson’s appointment a “pathetic” attempt to recruit an old friend of the prime minister’s.
“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,” he said.
“I doubt that the experience of the Bullingdon would provide any of the right qualifications. It seems like a completely inappropriate appointment.”
The committee advises the prime minister on ethical standards of conduct across public life in England.
Mr Fergusson, the son of a former UK ambassador to France, was a partner at top law firm Herbert Smith Freehills until 2018 and is now a non-magistrate member of the lord chancellor’s advisory committee for southeast England.
He is also a co-producer on “various film projects”, according to his government profile.
Mr Fergusson and Mr Johnson reportedly met at Oriel College, Oxford.
When his appointment was announced, a Cabinet Office spokesman said he applied “through open and fair competition, following the governance code for public appointments”.