A look at three decades of Boris Johnson's scandals, blunders and rows

UK Prime Minister may be facing tough questions now, but it's not the first time he's been in hot water

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived a series of scandals, blunders and controversies that could have sunk other political careers.

Here are some of them:


In 1988 Mr Johnson was sacked from his first job in journalism as a graduate trainee on The Times for fabricating a quote.

In 1995 a recording emerged of a telephone conversation in which he agreed to provide an old friend, Darius Guppy, with the address of a journalist who was investigating him so that he could have him beaten up to the extent of “a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib or something like that”.

Mr Johnson said he did not pass on the information.

As a columnist on The Daily Telegraph, he was accused of racism and homophobia for descriptions of Africans and gay men.

In 2018, he caused further controversy with an article for the paper in which he described Muslim women as looking like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.

Foreign Secretary

In 2017, Mr Johnson was accused of worsening the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – the British-Iranian dual national held in Tehran on spying charges – after he wrongly claimed she was in the country teaching journalism.

After his comments, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who always maintained she was in Iran on holiday with her young daughter, was brought before a court and accused of engaging in propaganda.


After his resignation as foreign secretary, Mr Johnson was forced to apologise to Parliament for failing to properly declare outside earnings, which totalled more than £50,000 on nine separate occasions.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found the failings were not inadvertent and showed a lack of regard for the rules of the House.

Priti Patel

Mr Johnson’s independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Alex Allan, quit after the prime minister overruled his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants.

He said he did not accept that Ms Patel – a fellow Brexiteer – had breached the Ministerial Code, which would normally mean a requirement for her to quit.


Mr Johnson was widely criticised for failing to attend five government crisis response meetings in early 2020, just as the coronavirus was beginning to spread.

He controversially refused to sack his chief adviser Dominic Cummings over his notorious trip to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight” while the country was in lockdown.

Mr Johnson came under fire for the chaotic way Christmas was cancelled for millions after the discovery of the Alpha variant and his slow response when the Delta variant was identified in India.

He reportedly said he would rather see bodies “piled high” than order a third national lockdown, and was panned for his reluctance to wear a face mask in Parliament.

The Downing Street flat

Mr Johnson was accused by Dominic Cummings, his former adviser, of secretly trying to arrange for wealthy Tory donors to pay for a lavish £112,000 revamp of his official flat over No 11 Downing Street.

After an inquiry, his new adviser on ministerial interests, Lord Geidt, accepted that Mr Johnson had not known what was going on and when he found out he paid for the work out of his own pocket.

Lord Geidt reacted angrily when he learnt later that Mr Johnson had exchanged WhatsApp messages with one of the donors involved, although he said it would not have changed his final conclusion that there was no breach of the Ministerial Code.

In a separate investigation, the Electoral Commission fined the Conservative Party £17,800 for failing to properly declare a donation, part of which was originally used to help pay for the revamp.

Updated: January 13, 2022, 9:26 AM