Boris Johnson: What happens next in Partygate investigation?

Prime Minister faces slim chance of being Tory leader this time next year

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s grasp on power appears weaker by the day as allegations of illegal gatherings during England’s first coronavirus lockdown continue to undermine his authority.

The latest news reports suggest a birthday party with up to 30 guests was held in his honour in June 2020.

Public anger in Britain over the so-called “Partygate” has not abated, and Mr Johnson’s chances of emerging from the crisis as leader remain slim.

So what will the endgame look like, and what in which scenarios, if any, could the prime minister survive?

Sue Gray report could find damning evidence

Sue Gray, the senior civil servant leading the Cabinet Office inquiry into Partygate, is looking into several rule-breaking gatherings, including boozy leaving bashes and garden parties in May 2020 said to have been held at the height of England’s first lockdown.

The Prime Minister is said to have “shared what he knows” with Ms Gray but has denied any wrongdoing, and said he “implicitly” believed the gatherings were “work events”.

It was initially believed Ms Gray would need to wait for the outcome of a police investigation before making her findings public, delaying their release by weeks or months.

But Scotland Yard has said it will not block Partygate report’s early publication, plunging Mr Johnson into deeper jeopardy.

Police investigation could result in criminal charges

On Tuesday, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed they had launched a criminal investigation into lockdown breaches in Number 10, after weeks of refusing to do so.

They were forced to act after Ms Gray’s team handed details of its internal inquiry to the force – no doubt a troubling sign for the prime minister's team.

Met Police chief Dame Cressida Dick has declined to say which allegations were being investigated and would not put a timeline on when officers’ findings would be made public.

The Prime Minister has told MPs it is “right” for officers to investigate and that he believes it will “help to draw a line under matters”.

If evidence of significant rule-breaking at Downing Street is uncovered and charges are brought, it seems highly likely that the prime minister’s position will become untenable.

Tory Party’s 1922 Committee forces his resignation

The Conservatives are no stranger to turning on their own and biggest threat to the Prime Minister’s leadership remains his own MPs.

The 1922 Committee, the Conservatives’ group in the House of Commons – has the ability to trigger a leadership vote if 15 per cent of MPs say they have lost faith in Mr Johnson.

It effectively removed Theresa May after Brexit negotiations caused her authority to ebb away.

As it stands, 54 Tory Party MPs must hand in no confidence letters voicing their dissatisfaction at Mr Johnson’s job to trigger such an election.

If he falls foul of the vote, the Prime Minister could be compelled to step down as prime minister as a new leadership vote is launched.

Boris Johnson resigns on his own accord

Calls for the Prime Minister to quit are already growing. Last week, former Tory Party chairman David Davis said that Mr Johnson should "in the name of God, go".

Mr Johnson may be feeling that he has no choice but to resign before the investigations into his conduct reach their conclusion.

But he is known for his pugilistic streak and is considered unlikely to jump before he is pushed.

Boris Johnson stays on

Mr Johnson’s only real hope is that he is cleared of wrong doing which will see public anger subside. Other geopolitical events, such as a Russian invasion of Ukraine, would also help him stay in office as the nation’s attention turns to pressing security matters.

The next UK election is due to take place in May 2024, thought the date is subject to change.

But with his party’s and his popularity languishing in the polls, it seems unlikely he will be able to cling on without an astounding turnaround in fortunes.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 5:16 PM