Johnson’s government has been plagued by a series of scandals, from accusations of his disregard for rules and revelations of illegal lockdown-breaking parties held in Downing Street, to allegations of impropriety and abuse by Conservative lawmakers.
Here is a look at some of the more notable scandals of his government—
Illegal prorogation of Parliament
Johnson’s critics have often accused the Prime Minister of disrespecting government procedure and bending rules when it suits him — such as when he decided to ask the Queen to prorogue — or shut down — Parliament for five weeks at the height of a political crisis over Brexit.
The monarch rubber-stamped the request in line with her duty to stay out of politics and to act only on the advice of ministers.
But when the Supreme Court found the prorogation was illegal, it raised the uncomfortable question of whether the Queen had broken the law. The ruling led to accusations Johnson’s government deliberately misled the monarch as part of its strategy to secure Brexit. Boris Johnson was forced to personally apologize for embarrassing the monarch, according to the Sunday Times.
But the botched prorogation was just one example of Johnson’s disregard for parliamentary rules and standards. He backed Home Secretary Priti Patel after an investigation into allegations that she bullied staff found that she breached the Ministerial Code and did not “treat her civil servants with consideration and respect,” and had committed “behaviour that can be described as bullying.” Johnson’s ethics adviser Alex Allen resigned over the issue.
The flat refurbishment
One of the first scandals Johnson faced was an allegation of corruption after WhatsApp messages revealed he had asked a Conservative Party donor for funds to refurbish his Downing Street residence. British news outlets reported that the work cost around £200,000 ($280,000).
Political donations and loans are tightly controlled in the United Kingdom, with loans of more than £7,500 ($10,400) logged and publicly revealed by the commission four times a year.
Johnson did not report the donations and as a result, the Conservative Party was fined £17,800 by the Electoral Commission in December last year.
Owen Paterson lobbying scandal
Last year, Boris Johnson attempted to force Conservative MPs to vote in favor of overturning the suspension of a fellow Conservative Member of Parliament.
Owen Paterson, an influential Conservative backbencher and former cabinet minister, had been facing a 30-day suspension after being accused of an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules.
Following a backlash, Johnson U-turned and Paterson ultimately quit as MP.
The Liberal Democrats won Paterson’s seat — one the Conservatives had held for almost 200 years — at the subsequent by-election in December.
Johnson has faced months of damaging revelations of parties held at Downing Street in defiance of coronavirus lockdowns, with leaks and images dripping into the media since January.
A report published in May by senior civil servant Sue Gray criticized a culture of rule-breaking events, and revealed new photographs of him at two separate gatherings.
Among the parties: A night of heavy drinking on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral — at a time when strict limits on socializing forced even the Queen to sit alone to say goodbye to her husband of nearly 74 years.
Gray wrote that “the senior leadership at the centre” of Johnson’s administration “must bear responsibility” for a culture that allowed the parties to take place.
Johnson himself was fined by London’s Metropolitan Police for attending a party on government premises, making him the first UK premier in history found to have broken the law in office. Sunak, who resigned on Tuesday, was also fined for attending the same event.
Johnson’s handling of the scandal was particularly misguided, with Downing Street first denying there were any gatherings, then saying he didn’t know about them and then claiming he attended them because he believed they were work events.
Pincher misconduct allegations
This week’s cascade of resignations was sparked by revelations that Johnson appointed Chris Pincher into his government despite knowing of past allegations of sexual misconduct.
Pincher, the Conservatives’ deputy chief whip, resigned last week after allegations that he groped two guests at a private dinner. Pincher did not admit the allegations directly, but told Johnson in a letter that “last night I drank far too much,” and “embarrassed myself and other people.”
Downing Street had struggled to explain why Pincher was in government in the first place, amid a wave of revelations about his previous alleged conduct, denying Johnson knew anything specific about the allegations.
On Tuesday, it emerged that a complaint had been made against Pincher in the Foreign Office about three years ago and that Johnson was briefed on what happened. Downing Street then said he had forgotten.
Johnson acknowledged it “was a mistake” to appoint Pincher to his government on Tuesday, but the damage had already been done. The wave of government resignations started just minutes after he apologized for the decision, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid handing in their notices. Over the next 24 hours, dozens followed.