Rapid descent: Boris Johnson's bruising road to a confidence vote

Three potent scandals emerged in late 2021 and the fallout has steadily undermined the prime minister

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a bilateral meeting with Estonia's prime minister Kaja Kallas, in London, Britain, 06 June 2022.   EPA / JASON ALDEN  /  POOL
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Boris Johnson's road to the brink of losing his leadership of the Conservative Party can be traced back over eight months of damning findings and bruising losses from official reports and inquiries.

On October 26, 2021 Mr Johnson’s handling of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal triggered an angry public backlash. The prime minister at first backed Mr Paterson, a former cabinet minister, after the House of Commons Standards Committee found him guilty of breaching rules on paid lobbying by MPs. Downing Street backed down within 24 hours from whipping Conservatives to support an overhaul of the standards system rather than suspending Mr Paterson as had been recommended.

On December 8, 2021 Mr Johnson announced an investigation into allegations that Christmas parties in November and December 2020 broke the government’s own Covid-19 rules. The gatherings had been in the news since a leaked video of former spokeswoman Allegra Stratton discussing the parties in a mock press conference.

On January 6, 2022 Mr Johnson has been criticised by his ethics adviser for another running scandal about attempts to raise funds from donors to refurbish his Downing Street flat. Lord Geidt said Mr Johnson acted “unwisely” but cleared him of being deliberately misleading during the investigation.

On January 25, 2022 the Metropolitan Police announced it would launch an investigation into the events in Downing Street, named Operation Hillman, while the UK was under various phases of Covid-19 lockdowns.

On January 31, 2022 the senior civil servant Sue Gray, who was conducting the government's own investigation, announced her preliminary findings but said the full report would not emerge until the police had concluded their own inquiries.

On April 12, 2022 Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced they were among a batch of 50 fines issued by the police for a party in Downing St on the UK leader's birthday in 2020.

On April 21, 2022, the House of Commons passed a motion tabled by the leader of the Labour Party calling for Mr Johnson, to be investigated by the Privileges Committee for having potentially misled parliament over ‘partygate’ allegations.

On May 19, 2022 the Met Police announced it had completed its inquiries and had issued 126 fixed penalty notices to 83 people.

An anti-Boris Johnson protester holds a placard referring to the Sue Gray report, near parliament in London. Ms Gray has the job of investigating allegations that the prime minister and his staff attended lockdown-flouting parties on government property.  AP Photo

On May 25, 2022 Ms Gray’s full report was published, revealing new details of the Downing Street goings-on, as well as pictures of the celebrating prime minister.

On May 31, 2022 Lord Geidt issued a new exchange of letters in which the ethics adviser suggested the prime minister’s partygate fine may have breached the Ministerial Code.

On June 6, 2022 Sir Graham Brady announces that more than 54 MPs have written to him asking for a confidence vote in the prime minister's leadership. As the threshold under the party's rules had been crossed, the voting was due to start at 6pm with the result announced just after 8pm.

Many MPs have referred explicitly to partygate and the prime minister’s own behaviour when calling for a confidence vote, while others have cited frustration with government policy initiatives.

These include its plans to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol, plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, the privatisation of Channel 4, increases in national insurance that bring the tax burden to its highest point in 70 years, and the imposition of a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

Updated: June 06, 2022, 3:11 PM
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