List of political scandals in the United Kingdom

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Political scandals in the United Kingdom are commonly referred to by the press and commentators as "'sleaze".


A number of political scandals in the 1980s and 1990s created the impression of what was described in the British press as "sleaze": a perception that the then Conservative government was associated with political corruption and hypocrisy. This was revived in the late 1990s due to accounts of so-called "sleaze" by the Labour government.

List of scandals[edit]


  • Liberator Building Society scandal,[1] in which the Liberal Party MP Jabez Balfour was exposed as running several fraudulent companies to conceal financial losses. Balfour fled to Argentina, but was eventually arrested and imprisoned.








  • Corrupt architect John Poulson and links to Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling, Labour council leader T. Dan Smith and others (1972–4): Maudling resigned, Smith sentenced to imprisonment.
  • Earl Jellicoe and Lord Lambton sex scandal (1973): Conservatives, junior defence minister Lambton is arrested for using prostitutes and Cabinet minister Jellicoe also confesses.
  • Labour MP John Stonehouse's faked suicide (1974)
  • Harold Wilson's Prime Minister's Resignation Honours (known satirically as the "Lavender List") gives honours to a number of wealthy businessmen whose principles were considered antipathetic to those held by the Labour Party (May 1976)
  • Peter Jay's appointment as British Ambassador to the US by his father in law, the then Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan. At the time Jay was a journalist with little diplomatic experience.(1976)
  • "Rinkagate": the Thorpe affair. Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe was arrested and tried for allegedly paying a hitman to murder his lover, model Norman Scott, while walking his dog on Exmoor; the hitman only shot the dog, Rinka. Thorpe was forced to resign due to his clandestine gay affairs, but was acquitted of conspiracy to murder.[7]




  • Officegate (2001). Henry McLeish, Labour First Minister of Scotland, failed to refund the House of Commons for income he had received from the sub-let of his constituency office in Glenrothes while still a Westminster MP.
  • Keith Vaz, Peter Mandelson and the Hinduja brothers. Mandelson forced to resign for a second time due to misleading statements. (2001)
  • Jo Moore, within an hour of the September 11 attacks, Moore sent an email to the press office of her department suggesting: It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses? Although prior to the catastrophic collapse of the towers, the phrase "a good day to bury bad news" (not actually used by Moore) has since been used to refer to other instances of attempting to hide one item of news behind a more publicised issue.
  • In 2002, Edwina Currie revealed that she had had an affair, beginning in 1984, with John Major before he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This was criticised as Major had frequently pushed his Back To Basics agenda (see above), which was taken by the media as a form of moral absolutism.
  • The Burrell affair – allegations about the behaviour of the British Royal Family and their servants with possible constitutional implications. (2002)
  • Ron Davies stands down from Welsh assembly following accusations of illicit gay sex. Davies had claimed he had been badger-watching in the area. (2003)[11]
  • The apparent suicide of Dr. David Kelly and the Hutton Inquiry. On 17 July 2003, Kelly, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, apparently committed suicide after being misquoted by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan as saying that Tony Blair's Labour government had knowingly "sexed up" the "September Dossier", a report into Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The government was cleared of wrongdoing, while the BBC was strongly criticised by the subsequent inquiry, leading to the resignation of the BBC's chairman and director-general.
  • In April 2004, Beverly Hughes was forced to resign as minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Counter Terrorism when it was shown that she had been informed of procedural improprieties concerning the granting of visas to certain categories of workers from Eastern Europe. She had earlier told the House of Commons that if she had been aware of such facts she would have done something about it.[12]
  • In 2005, David McLetchie, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is forced to resign after claiming the highest taxi expenses of any MSP.[13] These included personal journeys, journeys related solely with his second job as a solicitor, and Conservative Party business, for example travel to Conservative conferences. Conservative backbench MSP Brian Monteith has the whip withdrawn for briefing against his leader to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
  • Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten resigns after it is revealed by the News of the World that he paid rentboys to perform sexual acts on him.[14]
  • David Mills financial allegations (2006). Tessa Jowell, Labour cabinet minister, embroiled in a scandal about a property remortgage allegedly arranged to enable her husband, David Mills, to realise £350,000 from an off-shore hedge fund, money he allegedly received as a gift following testimony he had provided for Silvio Berlusconi in the 1990s.[15] Nicknamed by the press as "Jowellgate".[16]
  • In March 2006 it emerged that the Labour Party had borrowed millions of pounds in 2005 to help fund their general election campaign. While not illegal, on 15 March the Treasurer of the party, Jack Dromey stated publicly that he had neither knowledge of or involvement in these loans and had only become aware when he read about it in the newspapers. A story was running at the time that Dr Chai Patel and others had been recommended for life peerages after lending the Labour party money. He called on the Electoral Commission to investigate the issue of political parties taking out loans from non-commercial sources.[17] See Cash for Peerages.
Cash for Honours (2006). Following revelations about Dr Chai Patel and others who were recommended for peerages after lending the Labour party money, the Treasurer of the party, Jack Dromey said he had not been involved and did not know the party had secretly borrowed millions of pounds in 2005. He called on the Electoral Commission to investigate the issue of political parties taking out loans from non-commercial sources
In November 2007, it emerged that more than £400,000 had been accepted by the Labour Party from one person through a series of third parties, causing the Electoral Commission to seek an explanation.[18] Peter Watt resigned as the General Secretary of the party the day after the story broke and was quoted as saying that he knew about the arrangement but had not appreciated that he had failed to comply with the reporting requirements.[19]



  • The Iris Robinson scandal in which First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson stepped aside for six weeks in January 2010 following revelations of his wife's involvement in an extramarital affair, her attempted suicide and allegations that he had failed to properly declare details of loans she had procured for her lover to develop a business venture.
  • The 2010 Cash for Influence Scandal, in which undercover reporters for the Dispatches television series posed as political lobbyists offering to pay Members of Parliament to influence policy.
  • On 29 May 2010 Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws resigned from the Cabinet and was referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after The Daily Telegraph newspaper published details of Laws claiming around £40,000 in expenses on a second home owned by a secret partner between 2004 and 2009, whilst House of Commons rules have prevented MPs from claiming second home expenses on properties owned by a partner since 2006. By resigning Laws became the shortest serving Minister in modern British political history with less than 18 days service as a Cabinet Minister.



  • Conservative Party 'Cash for Access' scandal, March 2012.
  • In February 2012 Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne resigned from the Cabinet when he was charged with perverting the course of justice over a 2003 speeding case. His wife Vicky Pryce had claimed that she was driving the car, and accepted the licence penalty points on his behalf so that he could avoid being banned from driving. Huhne plead guilty at his trial, resigned as a member of parliament, and he and Pryce were sentenced to eight months in prison for perverting the course of justice.[22]
  • In April 2012, Conservative Party MP and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt came under pressure to resign as a result of his closeness to Rupert Murdoch's media empire and alleged corruption in dealing with Murdoch's bid for News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB.
  • In October 2012, Andrew Mitchell resigned from his post as Chief Whip following allegations made about his conduct during an altercation with police at Downing Street on 19 September, the incident becoming known as "plebgate".[23]




  • In September 2015, Lord Ashcroft published a biography of David Cameron, which suggested that the then Prime Minister took drugs regularly and performed an "outrageous initiation ceremony" which involved inserting "a private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a dead pig during his time in university. This became known as "piggate".[26] It also led to questions about the Prime Minister's honesty with party donor's known tax statuses as Lord Ashcroft suggested he had openly discussed his non-dom status with him in 2009, earlier than previously thought.[27]


  • On 6 July 2016, the Iraq Inquiry (also known as the Chilcot Inquiry) was published. It described several questions about the grounds upon which the Blair government had allied itself with the US in invading Iraq in 2003.[28]


  • In 2017 the contaminated blood scandal in which many Haemophiliacs died from infected Factor medicine, hit the headlinesand Parliament with allegations of a "industrial scale" criminal cover-up.[29] MP Ken Clarke retracted remarks from his autobiography[30] relating to the scandal and a Public Inquiry is now underway.
  • The Renewable Heat Incentive scandal in Northern Ireland, in which Arlene Foster set up a green energy scheme but failed to introduce cost controls which eventually led to a £480m bill to the Northern Ireland budget. There were allegations that members of the Democratic Unionist Party attempted to postpone the closure of the scheme, which gave way to a spike in applications and causing the public purse millions of pounds. In January 2017, the scandal caused the resignation of the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, after Foster refused to stand aside as First Minister pending an investigation, collapsing the Executive Office.
  • The 2017 Westminster sexual scandals in which a number of MPs, MSPs, AMs, and other political figures were accused of sexual harassment and assault.[31]


  • The 2018 Windrush scandal, involving members of the Windrush generation being wrongly detained, deported, or threatened with deportation which caused the resignation of then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd to resign.[32]
  • Jeremy Hunt property scandal – in April 2018, The Daily Telegraph reported that Hunt breached anti-money laundering legislation by failing to declare his 50 per cent interest in a property firm. The Guardian reported that Hunt was able to buy seven luxury flats at Alexandra Wharf, Southampton, with the help of a bulk discount from property developer and Conservative donor Nicholas James Roach.[33][34]
  • Several links between Cambridge Analytica and high-profile donors to both the Conservative Party and the leave.EU campaign.[35][36]
  • Andrew Griffiths, Tory MP for Burton and Uttoxeter, resigned in July 2018 as Minister for Small Business and suspended for sending 2,000 texts, many of a violent and sexual nature, to two constituents in little over three weeks. This happened a couple of months after his wife gave birth to their first child. Griffiths was subsequently found to have a track record of misogynistic behavior and bullying.
  • In December 2018 Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was convicted of perverting the course of justice for lying to police to avoid a speeding fine. She was expelled from her party and in January 2019 she was imprisoned for three months. Onasanya refused to resign as an MP, making her the first sitting MP to be imprisoned for 28 years.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "LIBERATOR BUILDING SOCIETY SCANDALS". PapersPast. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  2. ^ "About The Marconi Scandal". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  3. ^ "David Lloyd George". Britannica. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Budget Leaks". BBC Democracy. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  5. ^ "The Suez Crisis". BBC History. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  6. ^ Brown, Derek (12 April 2001). "1963: The Profumo scandal". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  7. ^ "From Lloyd George to Jeremy Thorpe, there's something in Liberal DNA that breeds sex scandals", 27 Feb 2013
  8. ^ "1986: Heseltine quits over Westland". BBC. 9 January 1986. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Popham, Peter (7 January 1997). "Back to basics of vaudeville". The Independent. London.
  11. ^ Wintour, Patrick (10 March 2003). "Ron Davies ends political career". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  12. ^ Mp, Labour (16 October 2002). "Beverley Hughes". BBC News. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  13. ^ "McLetchie resigns as Tory leader". BBC News. BBC. 31 October 2005. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  14. ^ "Oaten resigns over rent boy claim". BBC News. BBC. 21 January 2006. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  15. ^ Owen, Richard (27 February 2006). "Q&A: Tessa Jowell and the Berlusconi affair". The Times. London. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  16. ^ Popham, Peter (2 March 2006). "Jowellgate: Italian judge will press charges over bribery allegations". The Independent. London: Independent News and Media Limited. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  17. ^ "Labour loans to be investigated". BBC News. 15 March 2006.
  18. ^ "Concern over secret Labour donor". BBC News. 25 November 2007.
  19. ^ "Labour boss quits over donations". BBC News. 26 November 2007.
  20. ^ "Hain quits jobs 'to clear name'". BBC News. 24 January 2007.
  21. ^ "Tory MP Conway faces suspension". BBC News. 28 January 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  22. ^ "Huhne and Pryce sent to prison". BBC News. 11 March 2013.
  23. ^ "Andrew Mitchell row – timeline", The Guardian, 19 December 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2014
  24. ^ "Labour refers Falkirk row to police". 5 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  25. ^ "Maria Miller row: Cameron faces questions, Labour says", BBC News, 5 April 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  26. ^ "A pig, some drugs and a disappointed billionaire: the life of David Cameron", Telegraph, 21 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  27. ^ Beijing, Rowena Mason Tom Phillips in (21 September 2015). "Cameron biography: Ashcroft makes new debauchery claims about student days". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  28. ^ "What happens next now the Chilcot report has been published?". The Independent. 7 July 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  29. ^ "NHS blood scandal a 'criminal cover-up'". BBC News. 26 April 2017.
  30. ^ Harpin, Lee (22 July 2017). "Victims of contaminated blood scandal weren't given Tory compensation". Daily Mirror.
  31. ^ "Sex pest scandal engulfing Westminster 'worse than expenses'". Sky News. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  32. ^ Olusoga, David (16 June 2019). "Windrush: archived documents show the long betrayal". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  33. ^ Davies, Rob; Syal, Rajeev (18 April 2018). "Jeremy Hunt got 'bulk discount' on seven flats from Tory donor". The Guardian.
  34. ^ Mikhailova, Anna (12 April 2018). "Exclusive: Jeremy Hunt admits breaking Government's own rules over company he used to buy seven flats". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  35. ^ Doward, Jamie; Cadwalladr, Carole; Gibbs, Alice (4 March 2017). "Watchdog to launch inquiry into misuse of data in politics". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  36. ^ "EXCLUSIVE Cambridge Analytica bragged: We have vast data for Brexit vote". Evening Standard. 23 March 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  37. ^ Humphries, Will (30 January 2019). "Disgraced MP Fiona Onasanya will be paid salary in prison". The Times.