How Boris Johnson's Premiership Unravelled in 160 Hours

The prime minister was brought down just a week after the resignation of his deputy chief whip.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his resignation statement outside 10 Downing Street.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his resignation statement outside 10 Downing Street.
James Manning via PA Wire/PA Images

After months of scandal and controversy, Boris Johnson has today announced that he is resigning as prime minister.

But the end, when it came, was remarkably speedy.

Just a week ago, the PM’s position seemed relatively secure.

But the resignation of his deputy chief whip set in train a series of events which ultimately led to him giving up what he described as “the best job in the world”.

HuffPost UK looks at the timeline of events that led to Johnson’s downfall.

Chris Pincher resigns

At around 8pm last Thursday, Chris Pincher announced he was resigning as deputy chief whip after admitting he had “embarrassed myself and others” after having “drank far too much”.

The Tamworth MP is alleged to have groped two men at the Carlton Club, a Conservative watering hole in London.

Initially, Downing Street sources said he had “done the right thing” by quitting and would not be losing the party whip.

Pincher loses the party whip

Following mounting pressure from both Tory MPs and opposition parties, Downing Street bowed to the inevitable and removed the whip from Pincher at 5pm last Friday.

A No.10 spokesman confirmed that Pincher’s party membership was being suspended pending an investigation into his behaviour by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

But the most significant event of the day had actually happened that morning, when a spokesman for the PM told journalists that Johnson had not been aware of any “specific allegations” against Pincher before making him deputy chief whip in February.

“There was no basis to stop the appointment in the absence of any formal complaint,” he said.

‘Pincher By Name, Pincher By Nature’.

In the Sunday papers, reports emerged that the prime minister had, in fact, known about Pincher’s reputation before putting him in the whips’ office and had even referred to him as “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature”.

During an uncomfortable round of Sunday broadcast interviews, work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey stuck to the line that the PM knew nothing about “specific allegations”.

A No. 10 source would only say: “Propriety and ethics did not raise any objection to appointing [Pincher], a reference to the background checks carried out prior to him being made deputy chief whip.

But pressed on the specific claims about what the PM knew, the No. 10 source was unusually tight-lipped.

The Downing Street Line Changes Again

After schools minister Will Quince endured a torrid round of TV and radio interviews on Monday in which he struggled to answer questions about what the PM knew and when, the Downing Street line changed.

The PM’s spokesman said his boss was aware of “reports and speculation” about Chris Pincher’s behaviour before appointing him deputy chief whip.

By now, Johnson’s critics were scenting blood.

Lord McDonald Drops A Bomb

On Tuesday morning, the tide truly began to turn against the prime minister.

Lord McDonald, the former permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, published a letter in which he revealed that a complaint against Pincher was made when he was a minister in the department in 2019.

What’s more, the highly-respected peer said Johnson was personally informed by a senior Cabinet Office official.

This meant the Downing Street version of events had been wrong, and furious Tory MPs began submitting letters of no confidence in the prime minister’s leadership.

Downing Street Admits Johnson Knew, But Forgot

Things were now looking increasingly bleak for the PM.

Astonishingly, later on Tuesday morning, Number 10 admitted that Lord McDonald’s recollection was correct, but that Johnson had forgotten about the incident when he made Pincher chief whip.

Tory MPs were now in open revolt and calls for the PM to resign were growing.

The Cabinet Revolt Begins

In a desperate bid to save his premiership, Johnson recorded an interview on Tuesday evening in which he apologised for his handling of the Pincher affair and expressed his regret at appointing him deputy chief whip.

But within minutes, both Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid had resigned from his Cabinet.

Although he managed to steady the ship that night, it was clear he was now living on borrowed time.

Government goes into freefall

Throughout Wednesday, dozens of Tory MPs resign as junior ministers, ministerial aides and trade envoys in an attempt to force Johnson to quit.

After enduring a nightmare appearance before the liaison committee, the PM returns to No. 10 to be confronted by a group of Cabinet ministers urging him to quit.

Astonishingly, he vows to fight on and retaliates by sacking Michael Gove as levelling up secretary.

Johnson realises the game is up

After further ministerial resignations on Thursday morning, including Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis, Johnson finally realises that he has no option but to resign.

It is announced that he will resign, but stay in post until a new Tory leader is elected.

At 12.30pm, the PM addresses the nation from the steps of No. 10.

He says: ”“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks.”


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