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UK: Boris Johnson steps down as MP over 'Partygate' scandal

June 9, 2023

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused opponents of forcing him out of Parliament with an inquiry into whether he misled lawmakers about parties at 10 Downing Street during the pandemic.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson admitted in March he misled Parliament, but denied having done it on purposeImage: PRU/AFP

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was standing down as a member of Parliament on Friday after confidentially receiving the Partygate report.

Johnson accused opponents of trying to drive him out of Parliament.

The former British premier said the "letter from the Privileges Committee make it clear — much to my amazement — that they are determind to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of Parliament."

He added it "is very sad to be leaving Parliament — at least for now — but above all I am bewildered and appalled that I can be forced out."

Johnson says not a 'shred of evidence' he misled lawmakers

Johnson added in his statement Friday that the inquiry has "not produced a shred of evidence that I knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons."

Johnson said the committee investigating the scandal was out to get him, saying that their "purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts".

The committee will produce the report in the next few weeks. 

What was 'Partygate'?

In May 2022, an internal investigation following media reports of multiple gatherings at government buildings during the pandemic revealed the gatherings should never have taken place.

The report by senior civil servant Sue Gray laid out how many of those gatherings were held, including describing parties that went on into the early hours, with music from a karaoke machine. 

Gray published photographs of Johnson toasting staff with wine. 

All the gatherings took place between 2020 and 2021 — when the UK was under lockdown rules that were put in place by Johnson's government.

After the media reports first emerged in December 2021, Johnson repeatedly assured lawmakers that he and his staff had always followed the rules.

That turned out to be wrong, Johnson later acknowledged in testimony before Parliament in March this year. But he said it was "what I honestly believed at the time." 

His resignation now triggers a special election to replace him as a lawmaker for a suburban London seat.

Johnson won the general election in 2019 in a landslide after delivering a Brexit deal, but was forced to resign from office in 2022.

A string of scandals, including the illegal lockdown parties, engulfed his time as premier.

rm/jcg (Reuters, AP)