15 major scandals Boris Johnson has faced while he's been PM

15 major scandals Boris Johnson has faced while he's been PM
'I'm sorry...': Seven times Boris Johnson has apologised

If you told us a few years ago that journalists would be writing articles about all the scandals a sitting prime minister in Britain has faced, we might have naively rejected such a thing could happen.

After all, it used to be that one scandal meant the end of our politicians, so that Johnson has faced enough for a long read and is still chuntering on is... questionable.

But he has, the latest being the Chris Pincher allegations of course, and so we are doomed to report on his slippery reign and you are doomed to read about it.

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So here's a rundown of the last few years of sleaze and scandals. Enjoy.

Proroguing parliament

In August 2019, not yet a month into the job of PM, Johnson asked the Queen to shut Parliament for five weeks, between 9th September until 14th October so the government had time to prepare its legislative agenda for the year ahead.

So far, so uncontroversial.

Except the timing of the suspension just so happened to coincide with the government passing key Brexit legislation and politicians said he was deliberately giving them a limited time to sufficiently scrutinise the legislation.

After a legal battle, the Supreme Court said the prorogation was “unlawful” and parliament remained open.

Jennifer Arcuri

Johnson was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over his relationship with the American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri, who has repeatedly claimed she had an affair with him while he was London mayor.

The watchdog looked into reports Arcuri’s tech firm was able to access £25,000 in public funds and that she was allowed onto three overseas trade missions.

The IOPC found that while there was no basis for any criminal charges, Johnson should have declared an interest concerning Arcuri and since he didn't he may have breached the London Assembly’s code of conduct.

Priti Patel allegations

<p>Priti Patel</p> AFP

In November 2020, an investigation found evidence Priti Patel bullied staff in her department and breached the ministerial code.

Johnson used a caveat in the findings - that the bullying may have not been intentional - to claim he did not believe the code had been breached.

And so, his first ethics adviser, Sir Alex Allan, resigned over the matter.

Crony contracts

Johnson’s government has repeatedly been accused of cronyism. In 2020, the Guardian revealed that a quarter of peerages awarded this year have been to Conservative party donors, close associates or former colleagues of Johnson, and last year financier Malcolm Offord, who has gifted £147,500 to the Conservative Party, was appointed as a junior minister at the Scotland Office.

Johnson was also admonished for appointing Nicky Morgan as culture secretary in 2019, even though she did not stand in the 2019 general election, while he also allowed Zac Goldsmith to enter the House of Lords so he could serve as a minster.

The party has also been accused of dishing out public sector contracts to friends and donors, particularly during the pandemic.

Changing tax rules

In April last year, the BBC published text messages between the PM and James Dyson – the Brexit-loving vacuum cleaner bloke – showing the PM assuring the latter he would not have to pay extra tax if his company moved from Singapore to the UK to make ventilators during the pandemic.

Two weeks later –Rishi Sunak told a group of MPs that the tax status of people coming to the UK to provide specific help during the pandemic would not change.

At the time, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “These are jaw-dropping revelations. Boris Johnson is now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.”

Johnson and the Tories, however, maintained the decision was the right thing to do to get ventilators fast.

Dyson similarly defended himself and said he was “hugely proud” of his firm’s response in “the midst of a national emergency”, and that he would “do the same again if asked”.

Flat refurbishment

Last year, Johnson was slapped on the wrist over the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment.

There was speculation about who funded his refurb - which involved rolls of £850 gold wallpaper that would perhaps even cause Salt Bae to pause - and whether he accepted Tory donors help. He maintains he paid for it himself but the Electoral Commission found he broke electoral law.

The PM’s adviser on standards ruled Johnson had not broken the ministerial code but had “unwisely...allowed the refurbishment...to proceed without more rigorous regard for how this would be funded”.

Breaking Covid rules

Watch Matt Hancock’s video resignation Matt Hancock

Throughout the pandemic, Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, told the nation that it was very important indeed that we follow coronavirus rules to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.

In May 2021, the public was told to social distance, restaurants and pubs only allowed outdoor seating and separate households were not allowed to mix indoors.

In June 2021, it was revealed that in May while these very same social distancing rules were in place, Hancock snogged a colleague in his office - and not at a distance.

Rather than immediately firing him - Johnson allowed Hancock to um and ah over whether to resign while the public got angrier and angrier and, in response, the prime minister even said Hancock “should leave office very proud of what you have achieved - not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us”.

He added: “I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over.”

Aside from that, Number 10 denied that Johnson himself broke festive Covid rules over Christmas by allegedly having a mate over. Meanwhile, we don’t even need to remind you how about the time Dominic Cummings broke the first national lockdown and Johnson didn’t fire or call for him to resign.


That ended up looking like a government with integrity compared with how in April 2022, both Johnson and Sunak were fined by the Met Police for breaking lockdown rules, making the former the first PM to face police sanctions while in office. What a legacy.

It came as the climax of months of media reports about and a police investigation into alleged rule-breaking events held in government buildings while the country obeyed various stages of lockdowns.

There was also the Sue Gray report into alleged dodgy lockdown behaviour and she wasn't exactly pleased with the PM and people also argued about how much Johnson knew about the parties.

Controversial holidays

When most people go on holiday, people wish them well and ask for a postcard. When Boris Johnson goes on holiday, he causes the launch inquiries into who paid for his ice cream.

In July 2021, he was criticised by the MPs standards watchdog for failing to promptly explain how a 2019 trip to Mustique was funded but was cleared of breaching the rules. The committee overruled the Commons standards commissioner Kathryn Stone who had concluded that he broke the rules by having not “fulfilled conscientiously” the requirements to register the donation - by David Ross - the founder of Carphone Warehouse who is a Tory donor and later was employed by the government.

There were also concerns about a holiday he went on linked to Zac Goldsmith.

Owen Paterson

UK Parliament

In November 2021, Johnson the House of Commons Standards Committee found MP Owen Paterson guilty of breaching rules on paid lobbying by MPs by advocating for two companies he was on the payroll of meaning he was suspended from parliament for a few weeks.

Instead of telling him off, Boris Johnson first backed an overhaul of the standards system to stop the suspension, then had to U-turn just 24 hours later because the public wasn't happy.

Paterson even ended up resigning - meaning he is out of parliament for far longer than he would have been if he had just taken his short suspension.

Sleazy MPs and lost by-elections

While Johnson has been in office, a number of MPs have resigned because of alleged misconduct.

Rob Roberts was found to have broken parliament’s sexual misconduct policy back in May last year after an employee accused him of making “repeated and unwanted sexual advances” towards them.

He was temporarily suspended from the Conservative Party and from parliament but has lost his whip and now sits in the Commons as an independent MP.

Earlier this year, David Warburton, the MP for Somerton and Frome, had the Tory whip removed following allegations of sexual harassment and the use of cocaine, which he denies.

Neil Parish admitted he watched porn in the commons, resigned and triggered a by-election, and now his old constituency Tiverton and Honiton has a Liberal Democrat MP, not a Tory one.

The former MP for Wakefield Imran Ahmad Khan was sentenced to 18 months in prison in May after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy – an offence which Khan continues to deny. Now Wakefield has a Labour MP.

That is just a few examples - you can read a more comprehensive account of Johnson's sleazy MPs here.

Pen Farthing's animals

Foreign Office whistleblower Raphael Marshall alleged that Johnson issued an “instruction” to ensure 173 dogs and cats from charity worker Pen Farthing's animal shelter were rescued from Afghanistan last summer while people were fleeing the country.

Downing Street denied that he, or his wife Carrie, had intervened in the case. But LBC found a letter to Farthing from Johnson aide Trudy Harrison telling him he had been authorised to proceed with the evacuation.

A No. 10 spokesperson said the letter was nothing to do with Harrison’s role as Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary and that she was acting in her capacity as a constituency MP.

Resigning staff

Johnson has lost the confidence of loads of his staff. Tory MP John Penrose, who had served as the government’s anti-corruption champion since December 2017, resigned on 6 June, accusing the prime minister of breaching the ministerial code over Partygate.

That was the same day he faced and won a vote of no-confidence, triggered by a number of MPs declaring they were fed up with him.

Then Johnson’s ethics adviser Lord Geidt resigned over a No 10 plan that he said risked a “deliberate breach the ministerial code” and the prime minister suggested the row was over a plan for protectionist steel tariffs.

And he lost advisers during the height of Partygate too.

Yesterday (July 5th), Sunak and Javid resigned from the government triggered more government staffers to do the same last night and today.

Are rats leaving a sinking ship?

Carrie Johnson story

Downing Street confirmed that members of Boris Johnson’s team intervened following the publication of a story about his wife Carrie in The Times that alleged Johnson tried to install Carrie in a Foreign Office job while he was the foreign secretary. It vanished from later editions of the paper.

Chris Pincher

UK Parliament

Chris Pincher MP resigned as deputy chief whip on 30 June following allegations he assaulted two fellow guests the evening before at the Carlton Club, a Tory private members’ club in London.

Downing Street firstly said Johnson was not aware of any “specific allegations” about Pincher when he appointed him to the whips office, but rep over the following days said that he was told about allegations against him as far back as 2019.

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