The partygate questions that caused the political demise of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson was interrogated numerous times in the Commons, which ultimately led to his political downfall. Credit: PA

By ITV News Westminster Producer, Lucy McDaid

Boris Johnson's political career is all but over, at least for now, as MPs look set to approve a report that found he repeatedly lied to MPs over Downing Street's pandemic parties.

A House of Commons Privileges Committee report ruled the former prime minister committed five contempts of parliament and was "disingenuous" on multiple occasions.

Mr Johnson's demise was caused, in large part, by interrogations in the House Commons after media reports of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street at the height of the pandemic.

He first denied parties were held in Downing Street, and later ensured rules were followed at all times when staff gathered for "work" events.

One of Mr Johnson's other key defences was he relied on repeated assurances from those around him that rules had never been broken.

The questions that caused the downfall of Boris Johnson

  • December 1, 2021 - "As millions of people were locked down last year, was a Christmas party thrown in Downing Street for dozens of people on December 18?

During Prime Minister's Questions on December 1, 2021, Sir Keir Starmer grilled Prime Minister Boris Johnson on reports of a festive gathering in Number 10 in 2020.

"What I can tell the Right Honorable Gentleman," Mr Johnson said, "is that all guidance was followed completely during Number 10".

The report by the privileges committee found the Number 10 press office held a planned drinks event with cheese and wine on the evening referred to by the Labour leader. It was attended by 25 to 40 people, and went on into the early hours.

  • December 8, 2021 - "They were lied to. They're right, aren't they?"

A day after ITV News published a leaked video of a mock press conference appearing to confirm reports of a party, Sir Keir grilled Mr Johnson in the Commons again.

The public "were lied to", he told Mr Johnson, to which he replied: "I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party, and that no Covid rules had been broken. That is what I've been repeatedly assured."

These two statements from December 1 and December 8 amounted to one complete denial and another insistence that, whatever happened, he was unaware of any rule-breaking.

It was these questions from Sir Keir that became central to the 14-month investigation by the privileges committee, which ruled Mr Johnson recklessly misled MPs.

  • December 8, 2021 - "Will the prime minister tell the house whether there was a party in Downing Street on the 13th November?"

Catherine West, a Labour MP, has credited herself with playing a significant role in the downfall of the former prime minister with this question in the House of Commons.

Mr Johnson again responded with an outright denial of a party, insisting rules were followed at all times.

  • January 31, 2022 - "Did he inadvertently mislead this House?"

One month later, Ms West asked Mr Johnson if he had misled MPs by denying there was a party in Downing Street on November 13, 2020.

Mr Johnson's insistence to "stick by" what he had previously said in the Commons became another example of his "repeated" and "serious" contempts of Parliament.

In fact, the committee found Mr Johnson had attended an event in Downing Street on November 13, and was pictured in a room with no social distancing being enforced.

MPs will now debate the findings of the report, which is unlikely to amount to a vote as was initially expected.

But what Boris Johnson plans to do next is the subject of great speculation.

A return to journalism was part-confirmed by the signing of a £1m two-year contract to pen a weekly column for the Daily Mail newspaper, in which he has promised readers completely uncensored views and as little politics as possible.

However, a number of his allies aren't ruling out a political comeback for the former prime minister, who could in theory make a return to Parliament as an MP in future.

The Partygate: The Inside Story podcast brings you fresh revelations and our whistleblowers in their own words in the definitive behind-closed-doors story of how ITV News uncovered one of the biggest scandals of our era...