Revolving doors of Number 10 made for a political rollercoaster of a year
Four chancellors, three prime ministers, two monarchs and one crazy year for British politics – it’s been a rollercoaster ride in Westminster.
The year began with prime minister Boris Johnson embroiled in the “partygate” row over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street and Whitehall. Bury South MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour, branding the prime minister “disgraceful”.
An initial report by senior civil servant Sue Gray included strong criticism of Downing Street’s culture, but with a Metropolitan Police investigation ongoing the document was short on details about the parties.
Mr Johnson’s aide Munira Mirza quit over the prime minister’s “scurrilous” attack on Sir Keir Starmer over the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile when the Labour leader was in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service. Chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and director of communications Jack Doyle followed her out of the door, largely as a result of being caught up in the partygate row.
Mr Johnson sought to reset his troubled administration by appointing Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip alongside new chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris after they ran an operation to shore up support for the prime minister.
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine allowed Mr Johnson to put domestic difficulties to one side while he threw his weight firmly behind Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement shielded lower earners from the impact of his national insurance hike, slashed 5p off fuel duty and promised to cut income tax by 1p in 2024. But it came against the backdrop of grim forecasts on economic growth and rising inflation and put the overall burden of taxes on course to reach the highest level since the late 1940s.
Tory Jamie Wallis came out as the first transgender MP, while Paulette Hamilton became the first black MP for Birmingham after winning the Erdington by-election.
Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were fined for attending the prime minister’s birthday bash before a meeting in Downing Street in June 2020, when England was under coronavirus restrictions. MPs agreed to a Privileges Committee investigation into claims Mr Johnson misled Parliament with his partygate denials.
Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan quit the Commons after being convicted of sex offences. Tory MP Neil Parish quit the Commons after admitting watching pornography in the Chamber. He said he accidentally viewed an X-rated video when browsing for tractors, before later doing so again, deliberately.
At local elections the Tories suffered a loss of more than 400 councillors across England, Wales and Scotland. Sue Gray’s full partygate report was published, detailing events at which officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff. The prime minister said he took “full responsibility” for the scandal.
Mr Sunak ended the month by unveiling a £21 billion package of support to help households struggling with the rising cost of living.
Boris Johnson’s leadership suffered a damaging blow as a confidence vote saw 41 per cent of his MPs try to oust him. He insisted he had secured a “decisive” victory as Tory MPs voted by 211 to 148 in support of him, but the scale of the revolt left him vulnerable.
Labour won Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats take Tiverton and Honiton in by-election defeats for the Tories, indicating Mr Johnson was losing support both in the north and south of England.
Mr Johnson said he planned to be prime minister into the 2030s despite his critics and the by-election defeats.
Chris Pincher quit his role as deputy chief whip after allegedly assaulting two fellow guests at the exclusive Carlton Club in London.
Boris Johnson tried to contain the row over Mr Pincher after it emerged he had been told of previous allegations of “inappropriate” conduct but had subsequently given him other government roles. “I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it,” he said in a hastily arranged interview in his Commons office.
Resignation of health secretary Sajid Javid – who said people “expect integrity from their government” – and chancellor Rishi Sunak who said the public “expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”. More junior resignations followed. There followed an exodus of ministers from Mr Johnson’s administration – and the prime minister sacked Michael Gove.
Mr Johnson resigned as Tory leader on July 7, but delivered a broadside at the “eccentric” decision by Cabinet colleagues and MPs to force him out.
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak emerged as the final two in the race to replace Mr Johnson. They would fight an increasingly bitter leadership contest over the following weeks.
Labour MP Sam Tarry was sacked as shadow transport minister for giving an unauthorised interview from a picket line.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen would appoint the new prime minister in Balmoral rather than travelling back to London.
Liz Truss won the Tory leadership contest, with 57 per cent of valid votes cast, compared to 43 per cent for her rival Rishi Sunak. She promised “a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy”.
Ms Truss headed to Balmoral to meet the Queen and formally accept the role of prime minister. In her first major speech in Downing Street, she promised to help the country “ride out the storm”. She appointed Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor but the Queen’s death halts politics for a fortnight.
The new prime minister later delivered a statement setting out plans to cap average household energy bills. But while she is in the Commons she received news about the Queen’s failing health.
At 6.30pm on September 8 Buckingham Palace announced the Queen had died, aged 96. Politics is effectively put on hold.
Mr Kwarteng delivered his mini-budget at the end of the month, a £45 billion package of tax cuts funded by increased borrowing, including scrapping the 45p rate of income tax for people earning more than £150,000. It brought turmoil in the financial markets.
After market turmoil triggered by the mini-budget, the Bank of England launched an emergency intervention to stave off a “material risk to UK financial stability” by buying Government bonds.
The Conservative Party Conference began in Birmingham and was a shambles from start to finish. The plan to scrap the top rate of tax is abandoned. Mr Kwarteng said it had become a “terrible distraction” following a backlash over the measure.
In a conference speech interrupted by Greenpeace protesters, Ms Truss promised to make the “difficult but necessary” choices to get the economy moving, hitting out at an “anti-growth coalition” seeking to stop her.
Mr Kwarteng was later hauled back from a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington to be sacked as chancellor. Jeremy Hunt is installed and reverses many economic policies. Ms Truss performed another U-turn, ditching a pledge to scrap a planned rise in corporation tax. Jeremy Hunt takes over in No 11.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Truss told MPs: “I am a fighter, not a quitter.”
Suella Braverman resigned as home secretary after emailing a draft ministerial statement from her personal account to a fellow MP and – inadvertently – an aide to another colleague.
In chaotic scenes in the Commons, Tory MPs were ordered to oppose a Labour motion on fracking, with chief whip, West Midlands MP Wendy Morton’s authority shredded amid contradictory messages on whether or not it was being treated as a confidence motion.
Liz Truss resigned as Tory leader on October 20 after just 44 days in No 10.
Boris Johnson rules out the possibility of a comeback as prime minister and Rishi Sunak was declared the new leader of the Tory party and incoming prime minister. Mr Sunak warned his warring MPs the Conservatives must “unite or die”.
Rishi Sunak officially became Prime Minister at the end of the month, bringing back Dominic Raab, Suella Braverman and South Staffordshire MP Sir Gavin Williamson into the Cabinet. Ms Truss’ exit from No 10 came after just 49 days, making her the shortest-serving premier in history.
Matt Hancock was stripped of the Tory whip after signing up to join I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
Sir Gavin Williamson resigned following allegations he sent expletive-laden messages to former chief whip Wendy Morton complaining about being refused an invitation to the Queen’s funeral, claims he bullied a former official at the Ministry of Defence and an accusation of “unethical and immoral” behaviour while he was chief whip.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt blamed Vladimir Putin for a “recession made in Russia” but promised a “recovery made in Britain” as he delivered a grim autumn statement signalling tax hikes, energy bill rises and declining living standards. But pensioners and people on benefits were protected, with inflation-linked increases promised from April.
The City of Chester by-election saw Samantha Dixon hold the seat for Labour after a contest was triggered by the resignation of Labour MP Christian Matheson after the Commons standards body found he had committed serious sexual misconduct.
I’m a Celebrity… star Matt Hancock announced he will not stand at the next general election.