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Politics

A reminder of all the scandals that led to Boris Johnson resigning as prime minister

Disgraced former prime minister Boris Johnson apparently thinks he should be the next prime minister

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is comforted by his wife Carrie as he arrives back into No.10 after delivering his resignation speech. Image: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Liz Truss’s resignation has opened the door for one of the most sensational comebacks since Dirty Den came back from the dead. With the Conservatives needing a new leader amid widespread calls for a general election, disgraced former prime minister Boris Johnson has apparently decided he should get his old job back.

And he’s not alone. MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg have already come out in support of Johnson who, in case you’d forgotten, resigned in July after a series of scandals brought down his government.

The final straw was a mass resignation of ministers prompted by his handling of the Chris Pincher scandal. But Johnson’s downfall took in all manner of controversies.

Here’s a reminder of his track record and the questions he still has to answer.

Johnson is facing a parliamentary investigation for lying to parliament

Oh yeah, that. Johnson is still facing an investigation by the Commons Privileges Committee, which will decide whether he deliberately misled MPs over Partygate.

If the committee, made up of seven cross-party MPs, decides Johnson has misled parliament, he could be suspended from the Commons. However, for this to take effect it would have to be approved by MPs.

This means – should Johnson return as prime minister – he could face the prospect of MPs voting on whether he should be temporarily barred from parliament.

Polling by Ipsos found three quarters of Brits think the investigation is justified.

Sir Roger Gale, a Conservative MP, said Johnson could not return to the fray until the investigation had run its course.

“We need to remember that Mr Johnson is still under investigation by the privileges committee for potentially misleading the house,” Gale said.

“Until that investigation is complete, and he is found guilty or cleared, there should be no possibility of him returning to government.”

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Johnson was fined for breaking the law over Partygate

Johnson was issued a fixed penalty notice for breaking lockdown rules by attending parties in Downing Street while the rest of the country could not meet. In doing so he became the first ever prime minister to be found to have broken the law.

Fellow leadership frontrunner Rishi Sunak was also fined over the Partygate scandal, which saw a series of revelations about lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street – and a series of denials from Johnson that any rules had been broken.

Events included a gathering in the Cabinet Room for Johnson’s birthday, a party with karaoke at which an attendee reportedly vomited, and an event on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

The Chris Pincher scandal

Government chief whip Chris Pincher resigned in June after allegations that he sexually assaulted two men.

It emerged that Johnson has been aware of a previous complaint and investigation into Pincher’s conduct while he was foreign secretary.

After ministers spent days defending Johnson, he was forced to apologise for appointing Pincher. This sparked the cabinet resignations that brought Johnson down.

The Owen Paterson lobbying scandal

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson quit parliament after he broke lobbying rules by approaching ministers and officials in his capacity as a consultant for two companies.

The Commons Select Committee on Standards recommended he be suspended from parliament for 30 days.

In itself, not a massive problem for the prime minister.

But the fact that Johnson got Tory MPs to vote for a motion ignoring Paterson’s suspension dragged him into it.

Johnson’s government faced allegations of corruption for trying to overrule the standards committee, and of trying to rip up the rules to save one of their own.

Keir Starmer accused the Conservative Party of “wallowing in sleaze”.

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Wallpapergate

The Downing Street flat, apparently, was a “John Lewis nightmare” before the Johnsons moved in.

Despite there being a £30,000 annual allowance for refurbishments, expensive wallpaper wasn’t going to pay for itself.

The total bill came to £200,000, including a £500 table cloth.

The source of an extra £58,000 used to finance the redecoration was hotly disputed. At first Johnson claimed he had paid himself. But it eventually emerged that it had come from Lord Brownlow, a Conservative peer and donor.

Johnson was cleared of breaking the ministerial code after an investigation, but criticised for acting “unwisely”.

The Covid inquiry

A fatsuit-wearing Kenneth Branagh isn’t the only thing bringing Boris Johnson’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic back to public attention.

The UK’s Covid inquiry will examine how the government responded to the pandemic, including the timing of its decision to lock down. After delays, the first stage began in September.

Johnson is expected to appear at in-person hearings in summer 2023, and is likely to face scrutiny over not just lockdown but testing and the decision to move Covid patients from hospitals to care homes.

The chair of the inquiry, Lady Heather Hallett, said: “My team and I will establish what was understood about Covid-19 at the time, what information was available in each of the four UK nations and how and why key decisions were made, especially early in the pandemic.”

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