How the ‘partygate’ scandal unfolded

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak apologised and paid fines on Tuesday after attending the Prime Minister’s birthday party in Downing Street during lockdown.

Mr Johnson rejected calls to resign while Mr Sunak also suggested he would continue as Chancellor, adding: “I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time.”

Here we look back at how the scandal unfolded over the space of five months – from the initial allegations in November, to the issuing of fines to the Government’s two most senior ministers on Tuesday.

Nov 30 2021

The Mirror published allegations that Boris Johnson and his staff had broken Covid rules by holding leaving and Christmas parties in Nov and Dec 2020.

Dec 7 2021

ITV published a video of Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s spokesman, joking about a Christmas gathering during a mock press conference. She resigned the following day.

Dec 8 2021

The Metropolitan Police said that it had been made aware of alleged breaches of Covid rules, but that it would not conduct an investigation into them. 

Mr Johnson later apologised at Prime Minister’s Questions for the video of the mock press conference, saying: “I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing Number 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures, and I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.

“I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country, and I apologise for the impression that it gives.

“But I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken, and that is what I have been repeatedly assured.”

Dec 9 2021

It was announced that Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, would conduct an inquiry into three events: two at 10 Downing Street on Nov 27 and Dec 18 2020, and one at the Department for Education on Dec 10 2020.

Dec 17 2021

It was announced that Mr Case would no longer lead the inquiry following reports that there was a party held in his office on Dec 17 2020. Sue Gray was appointed to conduct the investigation instead.

The Met said it would refer itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct following accusations of a “potential cover-up”.

Dec 19 2021

The Guardian published a photograph showing 19 people drinking wine at an alleged garden party at Downing Street on May 15 2020.

Jan 11 2022

The Met said that it had contacted the Government over “widespread reporting related to alleged breaches” of Covid rules.

Jan 12 2022

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that he had attended a gathering on May 20 2020, saying: “Mr. Speaker, I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want, or to do the things they love.

“And I know the rage they feel with me, and with the Government I lead, when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make them. And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right. And I must take responsibility… I believed implicitly that this was a work event.”

The statement prompted mass calls for his resignation, including from Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Jan 13 2022

The Telegraph revealed that two parties were held in Downing Street on April 16 2021, the night before the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Jan 24 2022

The Met contacted the Cabinet Office asking for access to all the relevant information found by the Sue Gray inquiry.

ITV also reported that a surprise birthday party was held for the Prime Minister on June 19 2020, allegedly organised by Carrie Johnson, his wife.

Jan 25 2022

Dame Cressida Dick announced that the Met would conduct an investigation into “partygate”, covering 12 gatherings over eight days.

Feb 4 2022

Sources told The Mirror that the Met had seen a photograph of Mr Johnson with a can of Estrella beer, whilst standing next to Rishi Sunak at the Cabinet Room birthday event on June 19 2020.

Feb 11 2022

Mr Johnson received his “partygate” questionnaire from the Met.

March 21 2022

The Met announced that it had sent more than 100 questionnaires to those involved in alleged parties.

April 12 2022

Downing Street confirmed that Mr and Mrs Johnson, and Mr Sunak had received fines.

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