Advertisement
Politics

Will Boris Johnson resign?

The prime minister is again under pressure to resign following the outcome of Sue Gray’s report into Partygate allegations and damaging Tory by-election defeats.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is facing renewed calls to resign following the fallout of the Partygate scandal and the Sue Gray report.

The PM has faced pressure from across the political spectrum – including inside his own Conservative party – calling for him to stand down amid the Partygate allegations.

Johnson received a fixed penalty notice for his attendance at one of the parties as Downing Street became the most fined address in the country. (It can be hard to keep on top of all of the alleged parties, what with there being so many, so here’s a list of them.)

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

The Met Police investigated 12 gatherings – at the heart of which are a birthday party held for Johnson on June 19 2020 and a gathering in the Number 10 flat on November 13 2020.

Gray did go as far as saying there had been “failures of leadership” inside Number 10 regarding Partygate. But further allegations have been made since the civil servant delivered her verdict.

The issue, as well as wider Tory sleaze, appears to have resonated with voters. The Tories suffered heavy defeats at by-elections in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield that have sparked the resignation of party chairman and long-time Johnson backer Oliver Dowden.

Advertisement
Advertisement

So what are the chances Johnson will call an end to his three-year stint in the job? 

What has Boris Johnson said?

Johnson initially refused to comment outright on his future ahead of the outcome of investigations into Downing Street parties during lockdown – both Gray’s and the Met Police’s.

The prime minister has apologised over the scandal, telling MPs at PMQs on January 12 that he “must take full responsibility”, saying he “knew the rage” that people around the UK felt. He apologised again in the Commons following publication of Gray’s first, incomplete report – though it’s not entirely clear what for. “I get it and I will fix it”, he told MPs on January 31.

He confirmed that he attended the drinks event at just after 6pm before returning to his office 25 minutes later. He said the event was “implicitly a work event”.

Then, at PMQs on January 26, the prime minister did appear to confirm he would resign if it turned out he had misled parliament.

However, Johnson stayed in post as the conflict in Ukraine began. But the full publication of Sue Gray’s findings forced a fresh apology and renewed pressure.

Today For Tomorrow

Join our Today For Tomorrow campaign

The Big Issue’s Today for Tomorrow Campaign aims to tackle the climate crisis, poverty and pandemics with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. Support the Bill and email your MP today!

Following the publication of the full report – and damning photos of the PM appearing to toast attendees at Downing Street in May – Johnson told the Commons he took “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch”. He added that he had been “humbled” by the experience and brought in changes in Whitehall.

Johnson also said he was “shocked and appalled” by the treatment of cleaning staff at Number 10 and denied he had misled MPs in the Commons. He said: “I am happy to set on the record now that when I said – I came to this House and said in all sincerity – the rules and guidance had been followed at all times, it was what I believed to be true.

But when it came to his future, the prime minister said it was time for everyone else – not him – to “move on”.

Similarly, after the Conservatives’ double by-election defeat on June 23, Johnson said he would “listen to voters” but “keep going”.

Who has called for Boris Johnson to resign?

There has been rising discontent in the prime minister’s party since he apologised for the findings of Sue Gray’s report in May and he may not have to resign to be ousted as party leader and PM.

Johnson saw off a no-confidence vote in early June after more than 54 Conservative MPs wrote to the head of the 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady to force a vote on his future.

In total, 148 Tory MPs voted against him – 41 per cent of his MPs in Westminster. He did, however, survive the challenge although it has left him severely weakened. Under party rules he cannot be challenged again for another year.

There are plenty of critics in the party, including some senior Tory MPs. Ahead of the vote former cabinet minister Dame Andrea Leadsom criticised “unacceptable failings of leadership” in a letter to constituents.

Article continues below

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has called for Johnson to step down for much of his stint in Number 10 while Caroline Nokes, Tobias Ellwood and Steve Baker are among the Tories who have also questioned his future.

Some MPs have even left the Conservative Party due to Johnson’s leadership. 

One MP, Bury South’s Christian Wakeford even left the party over the scandal in January. Opting to defect from the Conservatives to Labour just minutes before Johnson was due to face Prime Minister’s Questions on January 19.

The Bury South MP had previously confirmed he was one of the Tory ministers who had submitted a letter of no-confidence.

But will Boris Johnson resign?

This is not the first time Johnson has faced calls to quit after a scandal-hit 2021 but he has proved to be resilient during his Downing Street tenure.

He has survived a no-confidence vote, the fallout from the Partygate investigations and calls from opposition to stand down.

The latest threat to his future comes from voters. Bruising by-election defeats in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton have increased the pressure on the PM with voters flocking away from the Tories.

The defeat has already sparked the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden. One of Johnson’s most stalwart supporters, Dowden said he was “distressed and disappointed” by recent events in his resignation letter. He added: “We cannot carry on with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.” 

As the 2024 general election moves closer, Johnson’s position could become untenable if his own party feels like a defeat at the polls is on the cards.

Who is Sue Gray and what did her investigation find?

Civil servant Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office, was tasked with investigating allegations of a number of parties that took place at Downing Street and in Whitehall during lockdowns when restrictions were in place to limit the spread of the virus.

Gray’s report, released in a stripped-down version on January 31 following a request by police, did not pass judgement on whether any of the gatherings broke Covid rules, but bemoans a failure of leadership in Downing Street.

“There were failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times,” Gray wrote.

“Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”

The full report was published on May 25. It included blow-by-blow accounts of each of the parties investigated, and in her conclusion, Gray wrote that senior leadership “must bear responsibility for this culture”.

She stated: “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

The senior civil servant recommended departments put in place their own alcohol policies and called for reform of management structures in Number 10.

Who has already resigned from the Partygate fallout?

Dowden is the latest to step down, but he’s not alone.

Five of the prime minister’s Downing Street staff resigned in February. Former chief of policy Munira Mirza, who had worked for Johnson for 14 years, wrote a public letter of resignation after he tried to use a false claim about Jimmy Saville to deflect attention from the scandal during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, director of communications Jack Doyle, and special adviser Elena Narozanski also announced their departure, as did Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary Martin Reynolds – author of the invite to the party held May 20 2020 in the garden of Number 10 that asked attendees to “bring your own booze”.

The former Downing Street press secretary, Allegra Stratton, was the first high-profile figure to resign over the parties. Stratton gave a tearful resignation speech outside her house in December 2021 after footage emerged of aides laughing about a party during a rehearsal press conference.

Amid jokes about “cheese and wine” Stratton laughs and says “this is recorded. This fictional party was a business meeting” before adding, through stifled laughs, “and it was not socially distanced”.

Almost 700 people died of coronavirus on the day the footage was filmed, on December 22. Some 514 died on the day of the alleged party, on December 18. Downing Street has repeatedly denied a party took place.

Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
Dame Margaret Beckett: 'I hope I've helped the women who have come after me'
Letter to my Younger Self

Dame Margaret Beckett: 'I hope I've helped the women who have come after me'

Keir Starmer: What Labour leader could learn from Neil Kinnock to capitalise on Boris Johnson’s woes
Politics

Keir Starmer: What Labour leader could learn from Neil Kinnock to capitalise on Boris Johnson’s woes

Exclusive: Government has spent £1.5m on art for official buildings since start of pandemic
Politics

Exclusive: Government has spent £1.5m on art for official buildings since start of pandemic

After years of breaking the rules, Boris Johnson must now hope his MPs won’t change the only one keeping him in office
Boris Johnson

After years of breaking the rules, Boris Johnson must now hope his MPs won’t change the only one keeping him in office

Most Popular

Read All
Thousands march in London to protest low pay and rising cost of living
1.

Thousands march in London to protest low pay and rising cost of living

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'
2.

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'

Margaret Beckett: 'People think Boris Johnson would be a good laugh in the pub. He'd be late and not get a round in'
3.

Margaret Beckett: 'People think Boris Johnson would be a good laugh in the pub. He'd be late and not get a round in'

What really happened when Prince William sold The Big Issue
4.

What really happened when Prince William sold The Big Issue

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.