Boris Johnson will tomorrow mark 1,000 days in Downing Street – by apologising to Parliament for breaking the criminal law.
To his supporters, he is the Prime Minister who “got Brexit done”, made the “tough calls” on Covid (despite over 170,000 deaths) and is “levelling up” the UK.
But to his critics, the fact the PM is spending the anniversary embroiled in Partygate is the perfect metaphor for his scandal-hit premiership.
When he took power on 24 July 2019, he pledged to “unite” Brits, vowing to “work flat out to give this country the leadership it deserves.”
Since then we have had rows over donors, the Downing Street flat, MPs’ conduct, the PM’s use of facts and of course, Partygate.
Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media)
There have also been more than 40 U-turns, and countless controversial policies from forcing asylum seekers to Rwanda to refusing free school meals for kids.
One thousand days later, leading historian Peter Hennessy said the PM has “broken the law, misled Parliament, and has in effect shredded the Ministerial Code”, telling the BBC : “The Queen’s First Minister is now beyond doubt a rogue Prime Minister, unworthy of her, her Parliament, her people and her Kingdom.”
It may be hard to believe, but despite all that news, the PM has still not even been in office as long as Gordon Brown.
To mark the occasion we’ve rounded up 50 of Boris Johnson ’s biggest scandals, rows and U-turn since he took office. Buckle up – it’ll be a long ride…
1 – Unlawfully proroguing Parliament: The Supreme Court ruled the PM acted unlawfully by proroguing Parliament in 2019. 11 justices said shutting down the Commons for five weeks before the Brexit deadline had an “extreme” effect on democracy. Supreme Court President Lady Hale said: “Parliament has not been prorogued.” The PM later announced a crackdown on the ability to challenge his decisions in the courts.
2 – Purging long-serving Tories: In September 2019 the PM purged some of the longest-serving Tories from the party. Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames and longest-serving MP Ken Clarke were among 21 who lost the whip – followed later by a 22nd, Amber Rudd. Their ‘crime’ was backing a bid to delay Brexit beyond October 31 to prevent no-deal.
3 – Using public money to attack Labour: In 2019 he spent a day after announcing an election touring hospitals and police on public funds, despite restrictions on using taxpayer resources at election time. His bid to use Treasury civil servants to cost Labour ’s policies was blocked at the last moment by the Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill. Later in April 2022 he announced asylum seekers would be sent to Rwanda – on the first day of ‘purdah’ for local elections.
4 – Pork barrel politics: Labour branded the Towns Fund, a key part of the PM’s levelling-up agenda, ‘blatant pork-barrel politics’ after ministers hand-picked 61 areas to get cash three months before the 2019 election. Many were chosen over towns ranked more urgent by officials. An analysis by The Times claimed all but one were either Conservative-held seats or Tory targets. In 2022 the government unveiled a levelling-up White Paper but Labour branded it ‘recycled’.
5 – Hiding in a fridge: Boris Johnson retreated into a large fridge on the last day of 2019 election campaigning after an ITV reporter ambushed him to ask him to appear on the show. One of the PM’s aides could be seen mouthing ‘oh for f***’s sake’ in an incident used by his enemies ever since – despite a furious aide telling the Mirror: “No one hid in a fridge”.
ITV – GOOD MORNING BRITAIN)
6 – ‘Getting Brexit done’: Boris Johnson won the 2019 election on a pledge to “get Brexit done”. His deal passed the Commons in days and the UK severed its ties with Brussels in January 2020. But the UK then spent most of 2021 trying to unpick parts of the deal and threatening to tear up a key part relating to Northern Ireland trade. It’s still unresolved. Checks on UK imports from the EU have been delayed three times and ministers are considering a fourth.
7 – Family splits: Boris Johnson’s wife of 25 years Marina was said to be ‘in pieces’ after he left her for Carrie, now his third wife, getting engaged to her while PM. His daughter Lara reportedly branded the PM a “selfish b*****d”. Boris Johnson has at least seven children – one by an affair, four by Marina and two by Carrie – though he spent years refusing to confirm. The PM insists his private life is private, but some critics claim his personal conduct is a reflection of his character.
8 – Jennifer Arcuri: The PM’s friendship with model-turned-entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri – who went on three trade missions he led as London mayor – sparked a string of ethics probes. She later said she had an affair with the married politician and they had sex on his family sofa. The police watchdog did not open a criminal investigation, but found “some evidence” they were in an “intimate relationship” – and said failing to declare it could have breached the London Assembly’s code of conduct.
9 – 170,000-death Covid complacency: Covid easily makes its own article – but more than 170,000 UK deaths are a good starting point. Experts say thousands more died than would have done if the PM had not dithered over lockdown for a week in March 2020. He boasted ‘I shook hands with everybody’ at a hospital, only attended his first COBRA meeting on March 2, and spent crucial weekends at Chequers getting engaged to girlfriend Carrie. Ex-aide Dominic Cummings has plenty of axes to grind, but has claimed the PM was consistently anti-lockdown, ignored scientific advice and failed to take Covid seriously. He also claimed the PM ranted “we should never have done lockdown 1”. “Tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die”, he said.
10 – Barnard Castle: Dominic Cummings became a household name when the Mirror revealed he drove cross-country to Durham while sick with Covid during the first lockdown, then made an infamous trip to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight”. Mr Cummings refused to resign despite widespread public anger – and Boris Johnson stood by him.
11 – Test and Trace chaos: Serco’s privatised Covid contact-tracing system didn’t cost £37bn (that figure included millions of tests too) but it was still mired in controversy at great cost. For months the “world-beating” programme pledged by Boris Johnson didn’t materialise with contact-tracers failing to reach thousands of infected people and an app’s launch being repeatedly delayed.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
12 – Covid contracts for Tory allies: The Government awarded thousands of contracts to private companies as they battled to get vital equipment such as PPE and tests at the start of the pandemic. While ministers insisted they had to act quickly, meany deals were handed to associates of ministers and officials. The High Court later ruled a so-called VIP lane to hand out PPE contracts to two firms was unlawful.
13 – Free school meals: Ministers refused to issue £15-a-week school meal vouchers over the first summer of Covid, instead pledging a £63m pot for the worst-hit, but U-turned when pressured by footballer Marcus Rashford. The vouchers were later dropped in favour of a scheme which critics say won’t reach everyone in need.
14 – Summer exams scandal: Ministers performed a U-turn over exam grades in 2020. Pupils relied on teacher assessed grades due to Covid but a bungled algorithm downgraded 39% of A-Level results – 25,000 of them by two or more grades. After days of anger, the government said pupils could keep teacher estimates but it was too late for many who missed out on uni places.
15 – Pushing people back to offices: Boris Johnson launched a push for Brits to get back to workplaces – with sources warning workers who didn’t show their faces were more likely to lose their jobs. The rhetoric was abandoned within weeks as soaring cases led to another lockdown.
16 – ‘Let the bodies pile high’: Scientists called for a circuit-breaker lockdown in September 2020, but the PM resisted the idea at first amid fears about the economic impact. He eventually caved and imposed a month-long lockdown, allegedly fuming that he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than do it again. More than 50,000 people died in the second wave.
17 – Joking about octogenarian deaths: Boris Johnson allegedly claimed Covid patients “live longer”, according to text messages shown by the BBC. In texts to aides, Mr Johnson said: “I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities. The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get COVID and live longer.”
18 – Cancelling Christmas: Boris Johnson unveiled a plan that would let ‘Christmas bubbles’ of three families meet for up to five days in 2020. But he rowed back as Covid rates rocketed, and weeks later plunged England back into full lockdown. It later emerged Mr Johnson and then-fiancee Carrie had a friend to stay over Christmas. They insist she was part of a childcare bubble.
19 – Foreign aid cut: Boris Johnson abandoned a 2019 manifesto vow by cutting billions in foreign aid, from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income. The decision, which prompted fury including from many Tories, was blamed on Covid but later extended, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying spending would only return to normal by 2024/25.
20 – Covid travel rules: Boris Johnson was accused of sowing chaos with confusing Covid rules on foreign travel which changed repeatedly, sometimes at a moment’s notice. At one point there were plans mooted to create an ‘amber watchlist’, a sixth category for the controversial traffic light system. It was dropped before its launch amid an outcry.
21 – Post-Brexit immigration rules: New rules since 1 January 2021 mean all immigrants must earn over £20,480, have a job offer and speak good English to get permission to work in the UK. After months of warnings this would lead to job shortages, ministers belatedly brought in carve-outs for truck drivers and care home workers. They are now looking at the idea of robot fruit-pickers.
22 – Trying to dodge self-isolation: The PM and Rishi Sunak tried to dodge self-isolation by claiming to be part of a pilot scheme after they were ‘pinged’ by Sajid Javid – during a so-called ‘pingdemic’. In a farcical Sunday morning, they then U-turned less than three hours later amid public outcry.
AFP via Getty Images)
23 – Matt Hancock’s resignation: Boris Johnson tried to stand by Matt Hancock after the Health Secretary breached Covid rules by kissing an aide. No10 repeatedly said it “considered the matter closed”. But then when Mr Hancock quit, the PM U-turned and tried to claim credit.
24 – Priti Patel’s ‘bullying’: Standards advisor Sir Alex Allan quit in protest. He had ruled Home Secretary Priti Patel ’s conduct “amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying”. But Boris Johnson had the final decision and overruled him, deciding Ms Patel had not breached the Ministerial Code. New ethics tsar Lord Geidt has asked for more powers to avoid such a situation again, but so far they have not been forthcoming.
25 – Planning reforms: Boris Johnson outraged the Tory faithful with plans to tear up the planning system and pump development into liberalised zones of towns and cities. While many welcomed reform, the pressure was too much to bear and the Housing Secretary was sacked. His replacement Michael Gove appears to have shelved the plans.
26 – Photographer vanity: The PM was accused of splurging public cash on “vanity” photographers when the Mirror revealed he had three working at No10. The third was hired in February 2021 on a salary of up to £60,635 a year. Their output included promo shots of the PM’s dog frolicking in the snow – while access for independent press photographers was restricted.
Pippa Fowles / No10 Downing Street)
27 – Taking the knee: During Euro 2020 warm-up games, No10 refused to condemn fans who booed players for taking the knee against racism. The PM’s spokesman said was “more focused on action rather than gestures”. Only after several days of debate did the spokesman urge fans to “cheer not boo”, after which Mr Johnson said: “I disapprove of people booing the England team”.
28 – Downing Street flat ‘corruption’: Labour accused Boris Johnson of ‘wallpaper for festivals corruption’ over the luxury makeover of his Downing Street flat. The PM and partner Carrie spent more than £112k revamping the four-bed residence. The PM assumed a charitable Trust would pay, but donor Lord Brownlow paid instead when the idea fell through. The PM claimed he had no knowledge – but then ‘missing’ messages revealed not only did he ask Brownlow for ‘approvals’, he also promised to examine the donor’s idea of a second Great Exhibition. Eventually the PM settled the bill himself but the Tories were fined £18k for not recording the affair properly.
29 – Money worries: After once branding a £250k salary ‘chicken feed’ the PM has apparently privately complained about money worries since his divorce. At one point it’s claimed a Tory donor was asked to find a nanny for Mr Johnson’s baby. Labour warned at the time that it raised questions about who would lend the PM money and “what favours or promises may have been given in return.”
30 – Donor secrecy: Boris Johnson has dropped the practice of publishing attendees at the ‘Leader’s Group’ dining club, for people who give the Conservative Party over £50k. Past records of attendees – where donors rub shoulders with the PM without notes being taken – were scrubbed from the Tory website. And an ‘Advisory Board’ of £250k donors has since been set up. Promises of transparency were made after a 2012 row involving ex-Tory Treasurer Peter Cruddas… who Boris Johnson has now made a Lord. Three days after beginning his peerage, Lord Cruddas donated £500k to the party.
31 – Russian pals: Boris Johnson was urged to hand back millions in Russia-linked Tory Party donations. Banker Lubov Chernukhin, married to Putin’s former deputy finance minister, has donated £1.7m. Alexander Temerko, a businessman born in Soviet Ukraine who insists he is ‘no friend’ of Putin, has donated £1.3m. The Tories defend the donations, saying they are legal and Russian critics of Putin should not be lumped in with pro-Kremlin oligarchs. Boris Johnson also gave media mogul Evgeny Lebedev a peerage in 2020, despite spooks reportedly raising initial concerns over his father’s KGB past. He has also criticised the war in Ukraine.
32 – Gongs for cronies: Hedge fund boss and major Tory donor David Harding was knighted for “services to philanthropy”. The PM’s pal Zac Goldsmith earned a ministerial job and Lords place after losing his seat. Billionaire former Tory treasurer and mega-donor Michael Spencer got a peerage. Boris Johnson’s ex-aide Daniel Moylan now sits in the Lords, as does the PM’s journalist former boss Charles Moore and his former aide Eddie Lister. Tory donor Tony Gallagher, who gave the PM a £780 silver envelope to celebrate his son’s birth, was made a Sir. The PM’s ex-minister brother Jo is in the Lords too.
33 – James Dyson texts: In leaked texts, Boris Johnson promised vacuum tycoon Sir James Dyson he would “fix” an issue to ensure his staff were not hit with a tax bill if they came to work on emergency ventilators in the UK. It raised further questions about what influence powerful business people can have with politicians of the day. Both sides denied wrongdoing.
34 – Afghan animal rescue: Boris Johnson was accused of lying about whether he personally “authorised” the rescue of cats and dogs from Afghanistan while troops struggled to man the gates of Kabul airport during a Taliban takeover. He denied it as “rhubarb”, but Josie Stewart, the Foreign Office’s Head of Illicit Finance, turned whistleblower to say the PM’s involvement was “widespread knowledge” and officials lied.
35 – Social care: Boris Johnson said he had a plan for social care ‘prepared’ in his first speech as PM. But no such plan existed and a cap on lifetime costs was only announced more than two years later, taking effect from October 2023. The PM then outraged campaigners by tweaking the cap, so that poorer Brits couldn’t count money paid by their council towards the £86k limit.
36 – £1m bridge to Northern Ireland: Boris Johnson’s madcap plan for a bridge to Northern Ireland cost the taxpayer almost a million pounds – although it was never built. A £900,000 study commissioned by the Prime Minister found a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland would be too expensive.
37 – Climate flight: Boris Johnson flew back from Glasgow’s COP26 climate summit by private jet to go for dinner at the men-only Garrick private members club. He went to a private engagement at the elite institution attended by Conservative peer and self-confessed climate change sceptic Lord Moore. Charles Moore was a supporter of Owen Paterson, and within hours…
38 – MPs’ sleaze: The PM ordered Tory MPs to rip up ethics rules and block a 30-day suspension of Owen Paterson for lobbying breaches. The vote passed, but more than 100 Conservatives refused to back the plans and Keir Starmer accused the government of corruption. He U-turned less than 24 hours later. Mr Paterson later resigned as a Tory MP.
39 – Noisy protests: Boris Johnson has been repeatedly rocked by Lords defeats to his “autocratic” crackdown on the right to protest. The Police Bill will make it illegal to inflict “serious annoyance” on a person without reasonable excuse. It creates new offences against obstructing the road or using a loudspeaker at the gates of Parliament. And ministers failed in a last-minute bid to add even more offences of locking oneself to a gate. Police were also given sweeping stop-and-search powers.
40 – Shambolic Peppa Pig speech: Boris Johnson lost his place for 20 seconds before then rambling about Peppa Pig in a bizarre speech to business leaders in November 2021. He muttered “forgive me” three times and “blast it”. The Prime Minister also jokingly quoted Lenin, referred to himself as Moses, talked about how he used to scorn wind farms and electric cars, and impersonated an accelerating car saying: “Broom broom brah brah!”
41 – National Insurance hike: Boris Johnson U-turned on his central manifesto vow by hiking National Insurance – from 12% to 13.25% in April 2022 to raise £12bn a year. Despite it being to fix social care, all but £5.4bn of the first £36bn will go to the NHS instead. Threshold changes will cancel out the rise for earners below about £37k from July following a Tory backlash.
42 – Pensions triple lock: Boris Johnson axed the pensions triple lock – U-turning on his 2019 manifesto – for one year from April 2022. He and many experts argued it had to go, to prevent a Covid-related statistical anomaly in earnings triggering an 8.3% rise. But inflation has since risen to about that level anyway leaving pensioners with a real-terms cut.
43 – Benefits collapse: The PM removed an 18-month, £20-a-week Covid uplift in Universal Credit despite warnings it would plunge hundreds of thousands into poverty. While the benefit was made more generous for those working, there was nothing to help the out-of-work sick and disabled – and benefits’ value will fall by £12bn in real terms this year as a 3.1% rise is outstripped by inflation. The PM has refused repeated calls to update the way benefit rises are calculated.
44 – P&O scandal: Ministers threatened criminal and civil proceedings against P&O Ferries after the shamed firm sacked 800 seafarers with no notice, including over a Zoom call. But they were accused of not doing enough to stop the behaviour – voting against Labour MP Barry Gardiner’s crackdown on ‘ fire and rehire’, and only legislating afterwards to close loopholes on the minimum wage at sea.
45 – Energy plan cop-out: After weeks of delay, Boris Johnson published his plan in April 2022 to wean Britain off Russian energy. An early version of the document pledged 30GW of capacity from onshore wind by 2030 and 45GW by 2035 – up from 14GW now. But despite hilltop wind turbines being much cheaper than ones in the sea, the the PM axed this target – due to a Tory tussle over the “eyesore” machines.
46 – Bus funding: Boris Johnson was blasted for “shafting” swathes of England with his flagship levelling-up ‘Bus Back Better’ plan. Ministers announced £1.2bn for 34 areas that applied for “bus service improvement plans” (BSIPs) – including Kent, Norfolk, Warrington, Somerset and West Berkshire. But the 34 made up less than half of the 79 areas that were eligible and told to apply. And only £2.4bn was committed out of £3bn pledged by the PM in a ‘bus revolution’.
47 – High-speed rail: The PM was accused of “selling out” millions of people across the North as he axed plans for crucial new high-speed lines – announcing a new £96bn upgrades plan instead. The High Speed 2 eastern leg to Leeds was axed after years of planning with the line ending in East Midlands Parkway instead. And plans for ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’, a new East-West high-speed line across the North, were downgraded with a Bradford through station axed.
48 – Sending refugees to Rwanda: Boris Johnson’s plan to force Britain’s unwanted asylum seekers to Rwanda was branded “opposite of the nature of God” by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Migrants who arrive “illegally” on dinghies or fridge trucks will be detained, then “removed” with a one-way ticket almost 5,000 miles away with no option to seek asylum in Britain. Experts said the plans were costly and unworkable. It comes after outrage at the Nationality and Borders Bill which will make it legal to strip some people’s citizenship, and criminalise asylum seekers who arrive in small boats.
49 – Repeatedly ‘lying’ to Parliament: Boris Johnson has repeatedly been accused of misleading MPs and failed to set the record straight. As just one example, he has repeatedly made a misleading claim about jobs in Parliament. He said “there are 430,000 more [people] in employment now” than before Covid, but the figure is only payrolls – once self-employed jobs are included it’s actually lower. And, of course, he is accused of misleading MPs when he said he thought a BYOB No10 lockdown party was a work event despite claims he waved away concerns – and when he said all rules were followed completely in Downing Street.
50 – And finally… Partygate: Boris Johnson will forever be known as the only Prime Minister ever to break the criminal law – yet he has tried to stay in office. Police fined him £50 over a No10 birthday party in June 2020, while indoor gatherings were banned, and he could expect three more fines over other events. The Mirror first broke stories of parties in No10 while the nation stuck to lockdown, and wave upon wave of revelations – despite No10’s attempts to style it out – have enraged relatives who could not properly mourn their dead. Police are probing 12 No10 and Whitehall events spanning all three lockdowns and dished out dozens of fines so far.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnsons-first-1000-days-26732063 Boris Johnson's first 1,000 days - his 50 biggest scandals, rows and U-turns as PM