Saturday, March 2, 2024

UK’s Boris Johnson and the ‘Partygate’ Scandal

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LONDON (Reuters) – Former British prime minister Boris Johnson faces a grilling by lawmakers on Wednesday over whether he intentionally misled parliament about illegal parties at his office during coronavirus lockdowns when he was leader.

Johnson has said there was no evidence he intentionally misled lawmakers about the parties.

Below is a timeline of the events surrounding what has been dubbed “partygate” by the media. Click here for an explainer on how parliament’s privileges committee will conduct its inquiry into Johnson.

Nov. 30 – The Mirror newspaper reports Christmas parties took place in government offices, including Johnson’s No. 10 Downing Street, in December 2020, when such gatherings were banned.

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Dec. 1 – Johnson, asked about a December 2020 party, tells parliament: “All guidance was followed completely in No. 10.”

Dec. 7 – ITV News publishes a leaked video showing Johnson’s staff joking during a mock news conference over how to explain a gathering in Downing Street.

Dec. 8 – Johnson tells parliament: “I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken.”

Dec. 9 – The government launches an inquiry into the alleged gatherings.

Dec. 19 – The Guardian publishes a photograph of Johnson and others drinking wine in the Downing Street garden it says was taken during lockdown in May 2020.

Dec. 20 – “Those were people at work, talking about work,” Johnson says, when asked about the Guardian picture.

Jan. 10 – ITV publishes an email sent by Johnson’s top aide to more than 100 Downing Street employees in May 2020, inviting them to “socially distanced drinks in the No. 10 garden … and bring your own booze!”

Jan. 12 – Johnson tells parliament he attended a gathering on May 20, 2020 in the Downing Street garden and apologises, saying he believed “implicitly that this was a work event”.

Jan. 14 – Johnson’s office apologises to Queen Elizabeth after it emerged staff partied late into the night on the eve of her husband Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, when mixing indoors was banned.

Jan. 17 – Dominic Cummings, a former senior adviser to Johnson, says he can “swear under oath” the prime minister knew about a May 2020 party.

Jan. 24 – ITV News says up to 30 people attended a June 2020 event for Johnson’s birthday at No. 10, at which he was presented with a cake.

Jan. 31 – Senior civil servant Sue Gray, who is leading the government’s inquiry, publishes interim findings which point to “serious failures of leadership” and condemn the behaviour.

April 12 – Police issue an initial 50 fines over the gatherings, including to Johnson, his wife Carrie, and then finance minister Rishi Sunak. Johnson rejects calls to resign.

April 19 – Johnson apologises to parliament and says he had not deliberately mislead them.

April 21 – Lawmakers, including from Johnson’s own party, back an opposition motion that his statements “appear to amount to misleading the House” and should be investigated by its Committee of Privileges.

May 19 – The police hand out 126 fines relating to eight dates when events were held at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

May 25 – Gray publishes her full findings, which do not specifically blame Johnson.

June 6 – Johnson survives a confidence vote of his Conservative Party’s lawmakers but faces a large rebellion, with only 59% backing him.

July 7 – Johnson quits as prime minister, after another scandal – involving the appointment of a minister who had been accused of sexual misconduct – triggers the resignation of two cabinet ministers.

July 15 – The Privileges Committee requests diaries, emails, photos and mobile phone messages from Johnson’s office as part of its inquiry.

Jan. 11 – ITV reports in a podcast Johnson joked to staff “this is the most un-socially distanced party in the UK right now”, during a boozy No. 10 leaving do.

It also cites a source as saying government staff “shredded” key documents and destroyed evidence ahead of Gray’s inquiry.

Feb. 3 – Johnson says in interview “anybody who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules in No. 10, and then knowingly covering up parties that were illicit that other people were going to … they’re out of their mind.”

March 3 – Privileges Committee says evidence it has so far collected “strongly suggests that breaches of guidance would have been obvious” to Johnson at the time he was at the gatherings.

March 14 – Committee says it will quiz Johnson on March 22.

March 21 – Johnson says in document submitted to committee that there is no evidence he intentionally misled lawmakers about the parties.

(Compiled by Sachin Ravikumar and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Andrew MacAskill and Gareth Jones)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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