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What is the partygate scandal and how is Boris Johnson involved?

The prime minister of the United Kingdom is facing a vote of confidence within his own Conservative party after repeated scandals.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 26: A photo of newspapers publishing British Prime Minister's apology in London, United Kingdom on May 26, 2022. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued another apology over partygate after senior civil servant Sue Gray's report into breaches of coronavirus lockdown rules at Downing Street as the discussions about his political future made the headlines of the country's press. (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu AgencyGetty

The coronavirus pandemic caught everyone by surprise. The years of 2020 and 2021 were lost in large parts across much of the world as strict regulations were laid out by almost every government in an attempt to avoid the spread of covid-19. This was no more prevalent than in the United Kingdom, whose prime minister, Boris Johnson, stood up almost every day to announce the rules that were to be followed, to save lives, save the national health service and save the economy, being among his repertoire of reasons.

Boris Johnson and ‘partygate’

As individuals and families around the country made sacrifices - sometimes of the most significant kind imaginable - rumours abounded that their leader was not following his, and medical experts’, advice. And far from it. The stories emerging involved gatherings inside the home and workplace of the PM, in 10 Downing Street, London, some including alcohol, music, cake, nibbles, and a distinct lack of social distancing. And at times, these ‘gatherings’ were not only against the advice given, but against the laws set down during the peak periods of the pandemic. Welcome to ‘partygate’.

To fend off the accusations of his involvements in parties and indeed breaking the ministerial code - the latter usually coming with resignation - Johnson regularly appeared in the House of Commons stating initially that no parties took place, then tweaking his defence to him being unaware of the parties, and then finally reaching a cul-de-sac where he claimed something about there being parties, him being at those parties, but him not realising that they were actually parties or that he, or his colleagues, could be running roughshod over the rules he set.

Aiding the can kicking were a police investigation and an official report that was being compiled by senior civil servant, Sue Gray. Johnson was fined by the police and the came out of Gray’s report looking like a child covered in chocolate but still claiming that he hadn’t touched the big, brown cake that had been half eaten. His loyal supporters kept singing from the same hymn sheet that had been provided, not seemingly caring what music was actually being played. He, and they, now have to face it.

The ‘partygate’ scandal, mixed in with a list of other questionable comments and acts, has finally reached a point where enough Conservative party members have made it clear that they have no confidence in the PM and that a vote will be had. This will take place on Monday evening.

John Stevenson, a Conservative member of parliament, had said he had been “deeply disappointed” by the rule-breaking parties during the covid-19 national lockdowns and called for the prime minister to put himself forward for a vote of confidence as a way to “draw the line” under the issues.

“Sadly, the prime minister appears unwilling to bring matters to a head,” Stevenson said in a statement. “Therefore, the only option is for the Conservative MPs to facilitate a vote of confidence. I have already taken the appropriate action.”

Should Johnson lose a confidence vote, he would be removed as prime minister and there would be a leadership contest to decide his replacement.