The year of three prime ministers: Westminster’s wild 2022

The year of three prime ministers: Westminster’s wild 2022

Four chancellors, three prime ministers, two monarchs and one crazy year for British politics – 2022 has been a roller coaster ride in Westminster.

Here we look back on some of the key events.

– January

The year began with prime minister Boris Johnson embroiled in the “partygate” row over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street and Whitehall.

January 19: Bury South MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour, branding the prime minister “disgraceful”.

January 31: An initial report by senior civil servant Sue Gray included several strong criticisms of Downing Street’s culture, but with a Metropolitan Police investigation ongoing the document was short on details about the parties.

– February

February 3: 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.

Paul Givan resigns as first minister in Stormont in protest at the post-Brexit checks under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

February 8: 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.

February 24: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine allows Mr Johnson to put domestic difficulties to one side while he throws his weight firmly behind Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

– March

March 23: 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.

POLITICS Statement
POLITICS Statement


March 30: 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.

– April

April 12: 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.

April 21: MPs agreed to a Privileges Committee investigation into claims Mr Johnson misled Parliament with his partygate denials.

– May

May 3: Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan quit the Commons after being convicted of sex offences.

May 4: 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.

May 5: At local elections the Tories suffered a loss of more than 400 councillors in elections across England, Wales and Scotland, with Labour seizing totemic authorities in Westminster and Wandsworth. The Liberal Democrats also made inroads into the “blue wall” of Tory heartlands, taking control in Woking and Somerset, while also ousting Labour in Hull.

Sinn Fein emerged as the biggest party in elections to Stormont.

May 10: The Queen did not attend the state opening of Parliament due to “episodic mobility problems”, with the then Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge standing in for her.

May 25: 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.

May 26: Mr Sunak unveils a £21 billion package of support to help households struggling with the rising cost of living.

– June 

June 6: Boris Johnson’s leadership suffered a damaging blow as a confidence vote saw 41% 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.

June 23: Labour wins Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats take Tiverton and Honiton in by-election defeats for the Tories, indicating Mr Johnson is losing support both in the north and south of England.

June 26: Mr Johnson said he planned to be prime minister into the 2030s despite his critics and the by-election defeats.

June 28: Nicola Sturgeon set out plans to hold a second vote on Scottish independence in October 2023.

June 30: Chris Pincher quit his role as deputy chief whip after allegedly assaulting two fellow guests at the exclusive Carlton Club in London.

– July

July 1: Mr Pincher has the Tory whip suspended while he is investigated under Parliament’s Independent Complaint and Grievance Scheme.

July 5: 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.

But within hours he had been hit by the resignations 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.

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July 6: There was an exodus of ministers from Mr Johnson’s administration – and the prime minister sacked Michael Gove.

July 7: Mr Johnson resigned as Tory leader but delivered a broadside at the “eccentric” decision by Cabinet colleagues and MPs to force him out.

July 12-20: The parliamentary leg of the leadership contest saw eight contenders whittled down to a final two – Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. They would fight an increasingly bitter leadership contest over the following weeks.

July 27: Labour MP Sam Tarry was sacked as shadow transport minister for giving an unauthorised interview from a picket line.

– August

August 18: Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Margaret Ferrier pleaded guilty to breaking coronavirus isolation rules by travelling on a train from London to Scotland knowing she had Covid-19. She was later ordered to perform 270 hours of community payback.

August 31: Buckingham Palace said the Queen would appoint the new prime minister in Balmoral rather than traveling back to London.

– September 

September 5: Liz Truss wins the Tory leadership contest, with 57% of valid votes cast, compared to 43% for her rival Rishi Sunak. She promised “a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy”.

September 6: Ms Truss heads 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.

Liz Truss resignation
Queen Elizabeth II welcoming Liz Truss at Balmoral, Scotland to appoint her as prime minister (Jane Barlow/PA)

September 8: The new prime minister delivers 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 Buckingham Palace announced the Queen had died, aged 96.

Politics is effectively put on hold while events are held around the country to honour the late Queen.

September 23: Mr Kwarteng delivers his mini-budget, a £45 billion package of tax cuts funded by increased borrowing, including scrapping the 45p rate of income tax for people outside Scotland earning more than £150,000.

September 27: Sir Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech at the Labour conference against a backdrop of turmoil in the financial markets, saying the Government had “lost control of the British economy” and “crashed the pound”.

September 28: After the 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.

– October

October 2: The Conservative Party Conference began in Birmingham. Liz Truss admitted she “should have laid the ground better” for the mini-budget, but stressed the abolition of the 45p top rate of tax was “a decision the chancellor made” – leading to claims she had thrown Kwasi Kwarteng under a bus.

October 3: 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.

October 5: 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.

October 14: Kwasi Kwarteng was hauled back from a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington to be sacked as chancellor. Ms Truss performed another U-turn, ditching a pledge to scrap a planned rise in corporation tax from 19% to 25%. Jeremy Hunt takes over in No 11.

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October 17: Mr Hunt ditched further key parts of Mr Kwarteng’s mini-budget and warned that decisions of “eye-watering difficulty” would be needed to restore market confidence. His statement signalled the effective end of the Trussonomics experiment.

October 19: 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 Wendy Morton’s authority shredded amid contradictory messages on whether or not it was being treated as a confidence motion.

October 20: Liz Truss resigned as Tory leader after just 44 days in No 10.

POLITICS Tory
POLITICS Tory

October 23: Boris Johnson rules out the possibility of a comeback as prime minister.

October 24: Rishi Sunak was declared the new leader of the Tory party and incoming prime minister after Penny Mordaunt bowed out of the race as she failed to get the 100 nominations from Tory MPs required. Mr Sunak warned his warring MPs the Conservatives must “unite or die”.

October 25: Mr Sunak became Prime Minister, bringing back Dominic Raab, Suella Braverman and 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.

– November

November 1: Matt Hancock was stripped of the Tory whip after signing up to join I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

November 8: 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.

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November 17: 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.

POLITICS Budget
POLITICS Budget

– December

December 1: 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.

Ian Blackford resigned as the SNP’s Westminster leader.

December 6: Tory peer Baroness Michelle Mone announced she will take a leave of absence from the Lords to “clear her name” following allegations linking her to a firm awarded PPE contracts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephen Flynn was elected to replace Mr Blackford.

December 7: I’m a Celebrity… star Matt Hancock announced he will not stand at the next general election.