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Boris Johnson’s ups and downs: key events in his political career

It’s been a long climb to the top job for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Here’s a timeline of major events in his political life, from his first appearance in the House of Commons in 2001, to the vote of no-confidence he stared down in June 2022.

June 7, 2022
By Danica Kirka
7 June 2022

A timeline of key events related to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political career:

2001-2008: Sits in the House of Commons representing the constituency of Henley. During his tenure Johnson twice serves as the Conservative spokesman on business, innovation and skills while the party is out of government.

Johnson addresses campaign supporters in September 2007 to officially announce he is the Conservative party candidate in the 2008 elections to be mayor of London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

2008-2016: Serves as London mayor. During that time London hosted the Olympic Games, perhaps his greatest achievement.

Backdropped by the historic Tower of London, Mayor of London Boris Johnson waits for a giant Olympic Rings to start its journey down the River Thames in London to mark 150-days until the start of the London 2012 Olympic games, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Johnson stands in a subway in Gant’s Hill during a campaign walk about in April 2008 ahead of London Mayoral Elections in May 2008. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

May 7, 2015: Returns to the House of Commons representing the constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

2016: Co-leader of the campaign to take Britain out of the European Union. This put Johnson in opposition to then-Prime Minister David Cameron, a fellow Conservative, who resigned after voters approved Brexit in a national referendum on June 23, 2016.

2016-2018: Serves as Foreign Secretary, which makes him one of the most senior members of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet. Johnson resigned in July 2018 in opposition to May’s strategy for a “soft” Brexit that would maintain close ties with the EU.

Then-Chancellor Philip Hammond, former prime minister Theresa May and then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in January 2018. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau – WPA Pool / Getty Images)

June 7, 2019: Theresa May resigns as Conservative Party leader over her failure to persuade Parliament to back the Brexit agreement she negotiated with the EU. The party is split between those who back May and hard-liners, led by Johnson, who are willing to risk a no-deal Brexit in order to wring concessions from the EU.

July 23, 2019: Johnson is elected Conservative Party leader in a vote of party members. He formally takes office as prime minister the next day, inheriting a minority government that relies on votes from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to pass legislation. Johnson insists Britain will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.

Queen Elizabeth II welcomes newly elected leader of the Conservative party, Boris Johnson during an audience at Buckingham Palace in July 2019. (Photo by Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

August 28, 2019: Announces he will shut down Parliament until mid-October, giving opponents less time to thwart a no-deal Brexit.

September 3, 2019: Twenty-one rebel Conservative Party lawmakers support legislation requiring the government to seek an extension of Brexit negotiations if it can’t negotiate an agreement with the EU. The measure passes and the rebels are expelled from the party.

Johnson with then-PM David Cameron during the 2015 election campaign. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

September 5, 2019: Johnson asserts he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask the EU for another extension.

September 24, 2019: UK Supreme Court rules government’s suspension of Parliament was unlawful.

October 19, 2019: Johnson asks the EU to delay Brexit again. The new deadline is January 31.

Johnson addresses his supporters prior to boarding his General Election campaign trail bus in Manchester, in November 2019, on a platform of getting Brexit “done”. (Photo by Frank Augstein-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

November 6, 2019: Parliament is dissolved and early elections are set for mid-December as Johnson seeks a mandate for his Brexit strategy.

December 12, 2019: Johnson wins an 80-seat majority in the general election, giving him the backing to push through Brexit legislation.

January 23, 2020: The Brexit deal becomes law after approval by the UK Parliament. The European Parliament approves the deal six days later.

March 23, 2020: Johnson places UK in first lockdown due to Covid-19.

Johnson photographed at a party in 10 Downing Street on November 13, 2020 when such gatheruings were illegal under strict Covid lockdowns. (Sue Gray Report / gov.uk/Handout via Reuters)

April 5, 2020: Johnson hospitalised and later moved to intensive care with Covid-19. He was released from the hospital on April 12, thanking the nurses who sat with him through the night to make sure he kept breathing.

November 3, 2021: The government orders Conservative lawmakers to support a change in ethics rules to delay the suspension of Johnson supporter Owen Paterson, who had been censured for breaching lobbying rules. The measure passes.

Johnson takes part in a tug of war with Armed Forces personnel at the launch of London Poppy Day during his tenure as Mayor of London. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP, File)

November 4, 2021: Facing an angry backlash from lawmakers of all parties, Johnson reverses course and allows lawmakers to vote on Paterson’s suspension. Paterson resigns.

November 30, 2021: British media begin reporting allegations that government officials attended parties in government offices during November and December 2020 in violation of Covid-19 lockdown rules. The scandal grows over the coming weeks, ultimately including reports of more than a dozen parties. Johnson maintains that there were no parties and no rules were broken, but opposition leaders criticise the government for breaking the law as others sacrificed to combat the pandemic.

Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden arrive for a G7 leaders’ family photo during a NATO summit on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Brussels, March 2022. (Photo Henry Nicholls – Pool/Getty Images)

December 8, 2021: Johnson authorises investigation into ‘Partygate’ scandal. Pressure builds for a leadership challenge, but fizzles.

March 23, 2022: The government announces a mid-year spending plan that is is criticised for doing too little to help people struggling with the soaring cost of living. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak refuses to delay a planned income tax increase or impose a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies benefiting from rising energy prices.

April 9, 2022: Johnson meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, pledging a new package of military and economic support. The move helps bolster Johnson and his supporters, who argue that the government should be focused on the crisis in Ukraine and other major issues, not domestic political squabbles.

Johnson in full flight during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)
Russia Ukraine War Britain British PM Boris Johnson (l) has pledged extra support to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Johnson with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during his surpsise visit to Kyiv.

April 12, 2022: Johnson is fined for attending one of the so-called Partygate parties and apologises. Opposition parties characterise him as the first UK prime minister in history who has been shown to have broken the law while in office.

May 13, 2022: Unionists in Northern Ireland block government over Brexit trade rules.

May 18, 2022: Office for National Statistics releases data showing annual inflation accelerated to nine per cent in April, the highest in 40 years. The report fuels calls for the government to do more to combat a cost-of-living crisis fueled by soaring energy costs.

Johnson holds a press conference in response to the publication of the Sue Gray report Into ‘Partygate’ at Downing Street in May 2022. (Photo by Leon Neal – WPA Pool /Getty Images)

May 22, 2022: Findings of the Partygate investigation are published. It provides information on 16 gatherings at the Downing Street complex that houses the prime minister’s home and office and other government offices between May 2020 and April 2021. The report details instances of excessive drinking, property damage and disrespect to cleaners and security staff.

May 25, 2022: Johnson says he was “vindicated” by the Partygate investigation. Speaking to lawmakers, Johnson said he “briefly” attended some of the gatherings to thank departing staff members for their work but he had no knowledge of the excesses that occurred after he left.

May 26, 2022: Government reverses course on its tax decision on oil and gas companies and announces plans for a 25 per cent windfall profits levy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson pictured at the Platinum Party where a joke was made about so-called partygate (Niklas Halle’n/PA)

June 3, 2022: Johnson roundly booed as he walks up the steps of St Paul’s cathedral to attend service of thanksgiving for Queen Elizabeth II during celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee, in what critics suggest is a defining moment that demonstrates his wavering support from the public.

June 6, 2022: Johnson wins a confidence vote, but some 41 per cent of his party vote against him, placing his future leadership in doubt.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks after surviving an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader following a confidence vote in his leadership, June 2022. (AP)
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