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Pincher, Partygate, Pandemic: All That Went Wrong for UK PM Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is expected to announce his resignation as the leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday.

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Last month, on 3 June, when he walked up the steps of St Paul's cathedral to attend an event for Queen Elizabeth II during the celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee, Boris Johnson was viciously booed by the public.

This was only a few days before he survived the no-confidence vote against him over Partygate, initiated by MPs (the 'backbenchers') of his own political party, the Conservative Party.

If the man who won an 80-seat majority in the 2019 election and received a mandate to push Brexit, thought the worst was over, well, it wasn't.

A series of resignations by ministers in his own Cabinet on Tuesday, 5 July, led by Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, with more than 40 resignations from within the government, has led to a situation where Johnson is reportedly going to resign as the leader of the Conservative Party.

He, however, wants to stay as prime minister till October.

Even Home Secretary Priti Patel, who along with the new finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, had visited Johnson on Wednesday evening after the Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), a session that witnessed shouts of 'Bye Boris' after the end of Javid's speech, and had asked him resign.

In a new YouGov poll, 69 percent of British people said that Johnson should quit.

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But what led to such a disastrous turn of events in the UK government?

The Pincher Scandal

While Johnson's government has been enduring the Partygate crisis for months, it was the Chris Pincher scandal that catalysed the present state of affairs.

Minutes before the resignations started flooding in, Johnson had said sorry about appointing Chris Pincher, a lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct, as deputy chief whip.

Pincher resigned from his post on 30 June 2022 after he was accused of allegedly groping two men.

Johnson has been accused of being aware about the misconduct, and of not only not taking action against Pincher but promoting him to deputy chief whip.

Additionally, the prime minister admitted having known that Pincher was found to have behaved inappropriately before as well.

It was after the Pincher scandal came to light that ministers like Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid started walking out of the Cabinet, citing concerns with the prime minister's leadership in their resignation letters addressed to him.

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Partygate

The roots of the current crisis can actually be traced back to November 2021 when the British media started to report about allegations that Downing Street officials partied in government offices during November and December 2020 in a blatant violation of COVID-19 lockdown protocols that the British public was following.

Reports of more than a dozen parties emerged, even though Boris Johnson denied that there were any parties or that any rules were broken. The Opposition, however, turned up the heat.

Eventually, the prime minister authorised an investigation into the scandal that culminated into the Sue Gray Report, revealing information about 16 gatherings in 11 months between May 2020 and April 2021 at the Downing Street compound where the prime minister's residence and key government offices are located.

Excessive drinking by officials, property damage, and the poor treatment of cleaners and security staff were some other findings of the report.

The prime minister apologised, but Leader of the Opposition Kier Starmer of the Labour Party, along with other Labour leaders, and even some Tories, repeatedly asked Johnson to resign over Partygate.

Consequently, the Tories lost the Wakefield, Tiverton, and Honiton by-elections on 23 June, and this was widely perceived as a consequence of the scandal.

The Labour Party won Wakefield, while the Liberal Democrats won Tiverton and Honiton after which MP Oliver Dowden resigned as party chair of the Conservative Party.

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Handling of COVID

Two months after the Brexit deal became law after being approved by the British Parliament, the first COVID-19-induced lockdown was imposed by the Johnson administration.

And it appears as if everything went south from there.

The British government's response to the pandemic, according to a House of Commons report from last year, was "one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced," that cost thousands of lives.

Published on 12 October, by two committees appointed by the House of Commons, the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, the report titled Coronavirus: Lessons Learned to Date says that the UK's early handling of COVID-19 crisis was characterised by "groupthink," a "slow and fatalistic approach," and a misguided belief in the power of "herd immunity" to resolve the crisis.

Both committees consisted of Members of Parliament from the ruling Conservative Party, the Labour Party, and the Scottish National Party. You can read it in full here.

Despite all the above-mentioned scandals and incidents of alleged gross mismanagement, Boris Johnson continued to reside in 10 Downing Street until today.

He wants to stay as PM till October, but it is unlikely that his party will allow that happen.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  UK PM Boris Johnson 

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