'Partygate': infamous investigation led to ruin for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister resigns
After a whirlwind of resignations, which exceeded 50 names from the Conservative party including courts minister, James Cartlidge; science minister, George Freeman; Finance minister, Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary, Michelle Donelan; Boris Johnson will announce he has finally taken the decision to step down as Prime Minister.
In the morning of 7th July, the Brits were waiting for Boris Johnson to speak to Sir Graham Brady (the chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee). Following the conversation, Johnson agreed to stand down, No 10 sources are saying according to The Guardian.
The PM survived a confidence vote in June, following Boris' handling of sexual misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher. Many have been questioning Johnson's leadership - especially after a series of controversies in recent months, including the infamous investigation into 'Partygate'. We take a look at how this ultimately led to his demise.
Sue Gray's full report about the Downing Street parties was finally published in May. The results had been long-awaited.
The publication was delayed while the police investigated the events. An investigation that finished with a total of 126 fines being issued.
Boris was indeed found guilty and was fined along with others, forcing him to make a public apology on television for the scandal.
You would think not, but Boris is not letting the British people down. Incriminating evidence got worse as a photo emerged of Boris during lockdown with a drink in his hand and surrounded by people at number 10.
Months have passed since the investigation into the Boris Johnson 'partygate' scandal started. Boris had tried to avoid the news, pushing other, more urgent matters taking up the front pages.
According to The Independent, Metropolitan Police officers began interviewing key witnesses and 'over 100 questionnaires were sent out to Downing Street and Whitehall staff asking them about Covid lockdown 'gatherings'.
A spokesperson said of the long processing time of these investigations, “This investigation involved a significant amount of investigative material; the serving of over 100 questionnaires and the need to individually assess every response. We progressed the investigation as quickly as possible,” as The Independent reported.
What parties were investigated and how did the story develop? We take a look at the full story from the start.
Boris had already been under fire from his colleagues and the public after previously admitting that he had joined colleagues at a garden party in 2020 for 'around 25 minutes' to 'thank groups of staff' - but had "believed implicitly that this was a work event".
The current inhabitant of Number 10 stated at the time: "With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that - even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance - there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way."
Photo: YouTube/UK Parliament
An email that had been leaked exclusively to ITV confirmed that, despite defending it was a work event, Boris had, in fact, invited his colleagues to a social drinks gathering. This was during the height of lockdown in May 2020.
When the rest of the country was prohibited from meeting more than one other person outdoors, an email was sent by the Prime Minister's personal secretary to 'over a hundred employees in Number 10, including the Prime Minister's advisors, speechwriters and door staff' inviting them to "make the most of the lovely weather" on the 20th May 2020.
The email, written by Mr Reynolds, who ran Boris Johnson's private office from October 2019 to this year wrote:
"After what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening.
"Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!"
According to the BBC, Reynolds sent a message to a special adviser, on an unknown date after the gathering. He wrote, "Best of luck - a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with)."
The Mirror had claimed at the end of 2021 that the British people were being taken for fools as it was revealed Boris Johnson had a Christmas Quiz within Number 10 with guests breaking Covid Tier 2 rules at the time. A Tory minister claimed that, in fact, it wasn't a 'party' at all as there was no alcohol involved.
According to The Independent, former vaccines minister who was in charge at the time of the alleged event, Nazhim Zahawi, had defended the Prime Minister, saying that the gathering 'could not have been a party because no alcohol was present.' Many have not been so kind and been continuously trying to shame the PM for his actions and call for his resignation. Which they now have.
It is no surprise that Starmer, leader of the Labour party, hasn't exactly been a fan of Mr Johnson for a long time now and had previously stated on Twitter that Boris has damaged his own authority and is the 'worst leader at the worst possible time'. Even his own party had been urging him to confess to what did or what didn't happen.
Boris Johnson was accused of lying after a number of senior No 10 officials were filmed joking about a lockdown Christmas party. A party that Downing Street insisted never happened.
Johnson and his aides had continuously denied that the event, held for staff at No 10 in December last year, broke Covid rules or even took place at all. The British people have been urging Boris to explain himself and the 'joke' that was the Christmas party.
A leaked video, obtained by ITV, of a mock televised press briefing showed a conversation from 2020 that would have been better left private. A senior adviser to Boris Johnson could be seen joking with Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then press secretary, about “a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night”.
The footage was captured on 22 December 2020. The previous Friday was 18 December, the date on which multiple sources have said there was a staff party inside Downing Street, which would have broken strict Covid regulations in place at the time. Sources told the Guardian, Mirror, BBC and numerous other outlets that several dozen people were packed tightly at the alleged party, and that there was food and drink (wine and cheese), with party games and even a “secret Santa”.
Laura Hughes, Political & Diplomatic Correspondent for the Financial Times tweeted about an official who disclosed information about the party. They told the Financial Times that the situation was 'really bad' and that there could have been up to 40-50 people in attendance.
Vaccines minister Maggie Throup was mocked for her answer when she told BBC Question Time: “I have been reassured that all guidance was carefully followed as it continually is… Whatever the event was, the guidance was followed… this has been just rumour and hearsay.”
Another defensive attitude came from Deputy PM Dominic Raab, who said on the BBC's Andrew Marr show in late 2021 that having a party would have been 'wrong'. He then went on to describe the reports as “unsubstantiated”.
So the allegations of this party were previously being denied all-round. Or was it only the social distancing that was being denied? Raab continued to explain to the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “The PM’s very clear no rules were broken. I wasn’t there by the way.” Is he clear to make a run for the PM role himself?
Laura Hughes of The Financial Times reported, using Twitter, that an official mentioned another party which had taken place previously. This gathering was said to be a leaving party for one of Boris Johnson's close aides, the former director of communications at No 10, Lee Cain.
Then, to make things worse, The Times reported (on 9th December) that there had, in fact, been yet another party held: this time on December 14, 2020. As Paul Brand stated in his tweet, the story did indeed continue to run and run.
Unsurprisingly, the idea that there were parties in 10 Downing Street while many Brits were at home, many alone, over the Christmas period of 2020, has caused something of an outrage. Especially on social media, television and in the press.
The Independent reported that a furious Conservative party member quit the party after, according to the source, they heard Boris Johnson’s “barefaced lies” about the No 10 Christmas party.
Of course, Allegra Stratton also stepped down. And she did so with a face full of tears, saying "I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days", according to the BBC.
Sir Kier Starmer slammed the Partygate mess, calling it an insult to law abiding members of the public who followed the lockdown rules. Speaking in the House of Commons, Starmer had accused the prime minister of "taking the public for fools."
Sue Gray had been in charge of an investigation into the alleged events and produced initial findings from her report in February. The results were, indeed, damning for the PM, and it seems Boris had not been forgiven by his own cabinet, nor by the British public.