Every year in British politics is now almost always weirder than the last. But surely 2022 - which saw the country rattle through three prime ministers - will be peak stupid?
Below is a quick rundown of some, if not all, of the bonkers moments of the last year. May it rest in peace.
At the start of the year, Boris Johnson was prime minister and under intense pressure over the partygate scandal. On January 12, he admitted had actually attended a No.10 garden event during lockdown. Having previously insisted no rules were broken in Downing Street.
February - Jimmy Savile smear
Johnson spent the first few days of February doubling down on a discredited smear that Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile. The then prime minister made the allegation during heated Commons debate over the Sue Gray report into partygate. The false claim led Munira Mirza, his policy chief, to resign.
March - Boris’ Russia links
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw the British government rollout sanctions on people close to Vladimir Putin’s regime. Johnson himself came under pressure to explain his links to prominent Russians including former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev and Lubov Chernukhin, the wealthy Tory donor and wife of a former Russian minister. Dominic Raab explained it away as the PM simply being “very social”.
April - Partygate fines
On April 12, Johnson was handed a fixed penalty notice by the police for breaking his own Covid lockdown rules. It was the first time a sitting prime minister was found to have broken the law. Despite this, he did not resign.
May - Tractorgate
Tory Neil Parish formally resigned from parliament after he admitted watching porn on his phone in the Commons. Twice. The Tiverton and Honiton MP said it had been a “moment of madness” as he initially was innocently looking at pictures of tractors. Easy mixup.
June - Blue wall blues
On June 23 by-elections were held in the Tory seats of Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield. The party lost the former to the Lib Dems and the latter to Labour. Ed Davey celebrated his party’s victory with a classically stupid stunt. The double by-election loss did little to settle the nerves of Tory MPs about Johnson’s leadership.
July - Bye bye Boris
After a wave of resignations finally triggered by the Chris Pincher scandal, Johnson resigned as prime minister on July 7. Yet the previous day he had been determined to cling on. The farce was captured live on TV as he was told a delegation of cabinet ministers was at that very moment in No.10 waiting to tell him to quit. The group included very loyal Nadhim Zahawi, who Johnson had promoted to chancellor 24-hours earlier.
Johnson’s resignation triggered a months long Tory leadership contest which included so many idiotic moments it has its own list here.
August - The lady’s not for turning
Perhaps the, highlight, of the contest was Liz Truss announcing plans to pay workers living in cheaper areas of the country less than their counterparts in places like London and the South East.
Tory MPs were livid, with one describing it as “austerity on steroids”. Truss complained there had been a “wilful misrepresentation” of the plan by the media. There had not. Quickly U-turning on the proposal, Truss said it showed she was “honest and decisive”. Perhaps the signs were there all along.
September - Trussonomics
Truss hit the ground as prime minister on September 6. Her tenure lasted 49 days, during which time the Queen died, her mini-Budget caused the markets to have a panic attack and Tory poll ratings cratered. In a boost for Global Britain, the race for survival between her and the Daily Star’s lettuce became international news.
October - Rishi v Boris
Rishi Sunak succeeded Truss as prime minister on October 26, having lost out to her in the contest to takeover from Johnson. But over the course of a crazy weekend at the start of the month, Johnson flew home from his Caribbean holiday to try and stage a dramatic comeback as PM. Before then dropping out of the race in the face over overwhelming opposition from Tory MPs.
November - Hancock in the jungle
As health secretary Matt Hancock helped lead the country through its biggest crisis since WWII. In November 2022 he decided it was a good idea to join ITV’s I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here. He promptly had the party whip withdrawn and everyone else had to listen to constant jokes about him eating testicles.
December - normal service resumed?
The final month of 2022 in Westminster was somewhat stable when it came to nonsense, as the government grappled with strikes, inflation and the war in Ukraine. This could signal 2023 will be more serious if not calmer. But let’s not count on it.