What we know about Boris Johnson and Britain's 'partygate' scandal

·4 min read

WASHINGTON – The expected resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was spurred by a series of scandals, most notably "partygate," a spree of COVID-era drunken gatherings at Downing Street that violated lockdown rules.

Here's what you need to know about the scandal.

What were Britain's COVID lockdown rules?

Under COVID-19 restrictions, Britons were not allowed to leave their homes and were banned from socializing. Some restrictions, according to BBC News, required that you could not leave your home without a reasonable excuse, and the government said you could only meet one person at a time outside. People could not travel abroad or see dying family members at hospitals.

What happened at No.10 Downing Street during that time?

In the mid-2020s when the U.K. was under restrictive lockdowns, there were parties inside the prime minister's office at No. 10 Downing St. Alcohol-fueled illegal parties took place, and Johnson participated in one party that was held for him.

In May 2020, about 100 people received an email to come to a "socially distanced" party. Among the 30 in attendance were the prime minister and his wife, Carrie Johnson, a BBC report shows.

Parties continued through the mornings, where some of his staff members were drunk, vomiting, fighting with each other, and rule-breaking inside Downing Street, according to CNN.

Johnson apologizes: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologizes for attending 2020 lockdown garden party

When were the parties discovered?

The parties were not discovered until last year.

In November, a reporter at the Daily Mirror alleged that a series of parties occurred at 10 Downing Street in 2020, according to Slate. About a week later, ITV, a British news station, published a video of Johnson's staff "joking about their wine and cheese Christmas party." This led to Allegra Stratton, a senior government official's resignation, Slate reported.

How many parties were there?

From the span of May 2020 up until last April, there were 16 parties, according to the Washington Post.

The Post said guests were encouraged "to bring their own booze," and The Guardian published a picture of an event on May 15, 2020, which the prime minister's spokesperson called a "work meeting," saying because it happened during work hours, it fell under the COVID regulations.

What did Johnson say about the parties?

Johnson apologized last month after he revealed that he was among dozens of people who paid a police fine for attending lockdown-breaching parties and gatherings. That made him the first British leader to be sanctioned for breaking the law. He said he takes "full responsibility" but also insisted it was now time to "move on" and focus on Britain’s battered economy and the war in Ukraine.

But many Conservatives increasingly viewed Johnson, the charismatic leader who won them a huge parliamentary majority in 2019, as a liability.

He is expected to announce his resignation later Thursday.

Who investigated the parties?

The British Metropolitan Police investigated the scandal. The investigation took four months and cost £460,000, close to $500,000. Officers sifted through hundreds of documents per Sky News.

An internal investigation was also done by Susan Gray, a senior civil servant, according to the BBC. In January, Gray delivered an initial report, with a full report coming after police released its investigations.

The report, according to BBC, showed that junior staffers thought they were OK to participate because older staffers and political advisers were also in attendance. The internal investigation also found several photos taken at some events.

Who was fined?

British authorities refused to release the names of individuals fined, but among leaders, Johnson was fined, along with his wife Carrie Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, according to BBC News.

What were the investigation results?

The British Metropolitan Police Department said it issued 126 fixed-penalty notices to 83 people for gatherings on eight dates between May 2020 – at the height of the first wave of the U.K.'s pandemic – and April 2021. Some people received multiple fines.

These findings angered voters and members of Johnson's party, leading to a series of Cabinet resignations and calls for Johnson to step down.

Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard, Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is Britain's 'partygate' scandal?

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