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1000 days of Boris Johnson: Scandal-plagued PM will go down as law-breaker

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BORIS Johnson’s 1000 days as Prime Minister will be forever marred by a formal apology to Parliament for breaking the law, and the scores of scandals that have come before it.

On Tuesday, the Westminster parliament will be recalled after Easter recess and Johnson will have to face questions from MPs and a potentially crunch vote led by the opposition on whether he misled the House of Commons.

And then on Wednesday Johnson will take to the despatch box at PMQs to answer more questions as the fallout from partygate continues.

But that isn’t the only scandal presided over by the Prime Minister during his two and a half years at the helm.

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Proroguing parliament unlawfully

IF you cast your mind back to the beginning of Johnson’s premiership, it wasn’t long before he got into hot water for fudging the rules. The Supreme Court held that Johnson acted illegally by proroguing parliament in 2019, shutting down the Commons for five weeks before the Brexit deadline, ruling that it had an “extreme” effect on democracy in the UK. Johnson never apologised, although he reportedly did to the Queen, and later announced a clampdown on the ability of his decisions to be challenged in the courts.

Johnson avoided speaking to GMS in 2019 by hiding in a fridge

Hiding in a fridge

JOHNSON’s consistent dodging of the press over his premiership can be summed up in one moment at the end of the 2019 general election campaign. After an ITV reporter from Good Morning Britain ambushed him to ask him to come on the show, Johnson instead retreated into a large walk-in fridge.

Barnard Castle

KICKING off the Covid-19 rule breaches back in May 2020, Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings became a household name after he drove to Barnard Castle in County Durham to “test his eyesight”, having already travelled cross-country to his family home in Durham when travel was restricted. Cummings refused to resign and held the now infamous press conference in the Downing Street rose garden, and Johnson backed him.

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The National: Marcus Rashford put pressure on the government when they refused to provide free school mealsMarcus Rashford put pressure on the government when they refused to provide free school meals

Forced into a U-turn by a footballer

DURING the first summer of the pandemic, ministers refused to issue free school meal vouchers of £15 a week to support children in families on the lowest incomes.They instead offered a £63m pot for the worst hit, but quickly changed their mind after pressure from footballer Marcus Rashford.

The National: Sunak, left, and Johnson, right, during a hospital visit in KentSunak, left, and Johnson, right, during a hospital visit in Kent

Pandemic failures

COVID-related failures from the UK Government could easily fill it’s own article, but attempts by the PM and Chancellor to dodge isolation rules, Test and Trace failures with contact-tracers failing to reach thousands of infected people, and that 170,000 people died in the UK are some of the headline issues.

Johnson’s dithering over imposing lockdown for over a week at the beginning of March 2020 caused thousands more deaths, experts have said. By the second wave in September 2020, where 50,000 people died, Johnson initially resisted a second lockdown but finally caved, reportedly fuming that he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than do it again. He also joked about deaths of those in their 80’s.

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The National: Sunak, Patel and Hancock have all faced their own scandalsSunak, Patel and Hancock have all faced their own scandals

Cabinet of rogues

JOHNSON’S ministerial choices have also come under fire. During his tenure we have seen complaints against Home Secretary Priti Patel for “bullying”. This led to senior civil servant Alex Allan quitting after the PM overruled his decision that Patel’s behaviour had breached the ministerial code.

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was forced to resign after footage emerged of him kissing an aide, and Johnson tried to defend him. After Hancock stood down, the PM U-turned and tried to claim credit.

And, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to write off more than £4bn of covid loans that ended up in the hands of fraudsters came under scrutiny. Not to mention his wife’s non-dom status, or that fact that he held a US green card whilst Chancellor and living in Downing Street. 

The National: Met police arresting XR protestors in London earlier this monthMet police arresting XR protestors in London earlier this month

Authoritarian policies

THERE are a number of policies brought in during Johnson’s tenure that have caused concern among the public. The abandoning of a manifesto promise to bring in billions worth of cuts to foreign aid, compulsory voter ID plans which could disenfranchise thousands, a crackdown on protestors who are noisy, disruptive or “annoying”, and increasingly hostile immigration policies – the latest being the plan to ship Asylum seekers to Rwanda for “processing”.

It’s part of a shift to the hard-right that has been creeping into Johnson’s policies throughout his time as PM. The Judicial Review and Courts Bill, currently in its final stages, will limit the ability for citizens to challenge the government if it acts unlawfully.

READ MORE: ‘Rogue’ Prime Minister Prime Minister faces Commons vote on partygate fines

The National: Boris and Carrie spent £112k giving the Downing Street flat a makeoverBoris and Carrie spent £112k giving the Downing Street flat a makeover

Downing Street flat refurb

ALTHOUGH many of us got sick of staring at the same four walls during lockdown, not everyone had the option to call up a Tory donor for cash to fund a plush makeover. But that’s exactly what Johnson did – along with his now wife Carrie, the pair spent over £112,000 redesigning the four-bedroom flat above Downing Street.

Lord Brownlow fronted the cash when plans for a charitable Trust to pay for it fell through, prompting corruption calls. Eventually, the Tories were fined £18,000 for not correctly logging the affair, and the PM had to settle the bill himself.

The National: James Dyson texted the Prime Minister to ask him to 'fix' a tax issueJames Dyson texted the Prime Minister to ask him to ‘fix’ a tax issue

James Dyson texts

LEAKED texts between the PM and billionaire inventor Dyson showed that Johnson had promised to “fix” an issue to ensure staff of the vaccum tycoon would not be hit with a tax bill if they came to the UK to build emergency ventilators. Both sides denied any wrongdoing but it was yet another scandal where those close to the PM appeared to benefit.

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The National: Zac Goldsmith was given a peerageZac Goldsmith was given a peerage

Perks for cronies

SPEAKING of benefits, numerous pals of the PM have been ennobled or knighted since he came into office. After losing his seat, Zac Goldsmith was given a peerage and a ministerial job.

Michael Spencer, former Tory treasurer, billionaire and donor, also got a peerage. Daniel Moylan, ex-aide to the PM, Charles Moore, Johnson’s former boss when he was a journalist, and Eddie Lister, another former aide, all now sit in the House of Lords. Jo Johnson, the PM’s brother and former minister, was also given a peerage.

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The National: Owen Paterson resigned as the MP for North Shropshire after he was found to have breached lobbying rulesOwen Paterson resigned as the MP for North Shropshire after he was found to have breached lobbying rules

Tory sleaze and second jobs row

AFTER Owen Paterson was found guilty of lobbying breaches, the PM ordered Tory MPs to block the 30-day suspension and attempted to rip up ethics rules to save Paterson’s skin. Although the vote passed, more than 100 Tories refused to back the plans, and accusations of corruption began to flood the government. Johnson U-turned less than 24 hours, and Paterson later resigned. The saga prompted a row over MP’s second jobs.

Peppa Pig World

WHO can forget the PM’s car crash speech where he lost his place and began rambling about Peppa Pig World and imitating car engine noises in front of business leaders in November 2021. Johnson also referred to himself as Moses, jokingly quoted Lenin and said “forgive me” three times.

The National: Johnson was warned about granting a peerage to his close allyJohnson was warned about granting a peerage to his close ally

Russian donors

THE Tory party has received £1.7 million from banker Lubov Chernukhin – married to Vladmir Putin’s former deputy finance minister – with Johnson being urged to give the cash back. But that isn’t the only Russian donor funding the Tories – Alexander Temerko has donated £1.3m. The PM also gave Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Evening Standard newspaper, a peerage in 2020, despite concerns over his father’s KGB past.

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The National: Protestors in London hit out at the cost of living crisisProtestors in London hit out at the cost of living crisis

Cost of living crisis

THOSE on the lowest incomes have been hardest hit by tax hikes, despite the Tories still trying to claim that they are the party of low taxation across the UK. A perfect storm of National Insurance rises and a staggering hike in inflation while wages stagnate are beginning to hit those on the lowest incomes now, not long after the £20 uplift to Universal Credit was scrapped.

Alongside rising fuel prices and energy bills, on which the PM’s energy fell flat and offered no immediate solutions, Johnson is set to preside over a crisis which will plunge thousands more into poverty. The PM also broke another manifesto commitment by scrapping the triple lock on pensions, which will affect thousands of elderly claimants.

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The National: Johnson has been accused of misleading the House of Commons on numerous occasionsJohnson has been accused of misleading the House of Commons on numerous occasions

Lying to parliament

ALTHOUGH MPs can be chastised for calling the PM a “liar” in the House of Commons, there are numerous occasions where Johnson has obfuscated the truth at the despatch box. Notably – his claim that the “Bring Your Own Booze” Downing Street bash was a work event and not rules were broken.

He also has repeated a claim – and been criticised by the UK statistics authority for doing so – that there are 430,000 more people in employment than pre-pandemic. The figure only applies to payrolls and once self employed jobs are factored in the figure is significantly lower.

The National: The partygate scandal will forever marr Johnson's premiershipThe partygate scandal will forever marr Johnson’s premiership

Partygate

DESPITE being caught red handed and receiving a fine from the Metropolitan police, Johnson is hanging on to his job and refusing to resign, despite being the first sitting PM to have broken criminal law.

Dozens of fines have been dished out to aides and staff at Downing Street and Number 10 for boozing and partying while the rest of the country was under strict lockdown rules.

Relatives of those who died of Covid-19 have been scathing of the PM in the wake of the revelations, first broken by the Mirror, despite Johnson’s claims he did nothing wrong, subsequently followed by an admittance and an apology. More fines are expected to be handed to the PM in the coming weeks.

The National: Johnson has stayed in post so far - but how much damage have the scandals caused?Johnson has stayed in post so far – but how much damage have the scandals caused?

How has all of this impacted on the PM’s popularity?

JOHNSON has definitely taken a hit to his favourability amongst both the Tory membership and the public during his first 1000 days.

First, looking by looking at Conservative Home Cabinet Rankings from the beginning of Johnson’s term, we can see that he started out riding high in 2019. His rating began to drop as lockdown was imposed in March 2020, before gaining some ground back at the beginning of 2021.

A big dip came when the Hancock affair came to light, followed by an even bigger drop after November 2021 when the Mirror broke the partygate story. Since then Johnson has seen his support bolstered, along with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, after the invasion of Ukraine.

Amongst the general public, YouGov figures show a similar trend. After lockdown was imposed, Johnson was seen as doing his job well – but that changed significantly when the Barnard Castle story emerged. Johnson was seen to mostly do badly amongst the public, and just managed to level out before Hancock was caught kissing his aide. Things then only got worse for the PM as partygate revelations emerged, with the gap between those who thought he was doing well or badly as PM expanding.

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