Boris Johnson has been repeatedly rocked by Lords defeats to his “autocratic” crackdown on the right to protest. The Police Bill will make it illegal to inflict “serious annoyance” on a person without reasonable excuse. It creates new offences against obstructing the road or using a loudspeaker at the gates of Parliament. And ministers failed in a last-minute bid to add even more offences of locking oneself to a gate. Police were also given sweeping stop-and-search powers.
The PM was accused of splurging public cash on “vanity” photographers when the Mirror revealed he had three working at No10. The third was hired in February 2021 on a salary of up to £60,635 a year. Their output included promo shots of the PM’s dog frolicking in the snow – while access for independent press photographers was restricted.
New rules since 1 January 2021 mean all immigrants must earn over £20,480, have a job offer and speak good English to get permission to work in the UK. After months of warnings this would lead to job shortages, ministers belatedly brought in carve-outs for truck drivers and care home workers. They are now looking at the idea of robot fruit-pickers.
Boris Johnson unveiled a plan that would let ‘Christmas bubbles’ of three families meet for up to five days in 2020. But he rowed back as Covid rates rocketed, and weeks later plunged England back into full lockdown. It later emerged Mr Johnson and then-fiancee Carrie had a friend to stay over Christmas. They insist she was part of a childcare bubble.
Standards advisor Sir Alex Allan quit in protest. He had ruled Home Secretary Priti Patel ’s conduct “amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying”. But Boris Johnson had the final decision and overruled him, deciding Ms Patel had not breached the Ministerial Code. New ethics tsar Lord Geidt has asked for more powers to avoid such a situation again, but so far they have not been forthcoming.
Ministers refused to issue £15-a-week school meal vouchers over the first summer of Covid, instead pledging a £63m pot for the worst-hit, but U-turned when pressured by footballer Marcus Rashford. The vouchers were later dropped in favour of a scheme which critics say won’t reach everyone in need.
Ministers performed a U-turn over exam grades in 2020. Pupils relied on teacher assessed grades due to Covid but a bungled algorithm downgraded 39% of A-Level results – 25,000 of them by two or more grades. After days of anger, the government said pupils could keep teacher estimates but it was too late for many who missed out on uni places.
Scientists called for a circuit-breaker lockdown in September 2020, but the PM resisted the idea at first amid fears about the economic impact. He eventually caved and imposed a month-long lockdown, allegedly fuming that he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than do it again. More than 50,000 people died in the second wave.
Boris Johnson abandoned a 2019 manifesto vow by cutting billions in foreign aid, from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income. The decision, which prompted fury including from many Tories, was blamed on Covid but later extended, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying spending would only return to normal by 2024/25.
Boris Johnson won the 2019 election on a pledge to “get Brexit done”. His deal passed the Commons in days and the UK severed its ties with Brussels in January 2020. But the UK then spent most of 2021 trying to unpick parts of the deal and threatening to tear up a key part relating to Northern Ireland trade. It’s still unresolved. Checks on UK imports from the EU have been delayed three times and ministers are considering a fourth.