List of political scandals in the United Kingdom

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This is a list of political scandals in the United Kingdom in chronological order. Scandals implicating political figures or governments of the UK, often reported in the mass media, have long had repercussions for their popularity. Issues in political scandals have included alleged or proven financial and sexual matters,[1] or various other allegations or actions taken by politicians that led to controversy.[2][3][4] In British media and political discourse, such scandals have sometimes been referred to as political sleaze since the 1990s.[4] Notable scandals include the Marconi scandal, Profumo affair and the 2009 expenses scandal.


  • Liberator Building Society scandal,[5] 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.







  • Vassall affair (1963): civil servant John Vassall, working for Minister Tam Galbraith, was revealed to be a spy for the Soviet Union and was arrested. The affair was investigated in the Vassall tribunal.
  • Profumo affair (1963): Secretary of State for War John Profumo had an affair with Christine Keeler (to whom he had been introduced by artist Stephen Ward) who was having an affair with a Soviet spy at the same time.[10]
  • The Robert Boothby (Tory), Tom Driberg (Labour), Kray brothers affair and consequent cover-up involving senior politicians of both parties. The Daily Mirror published some details of the matter and was falsely sued for libel.


  • Corrupt architect John Poulson and links to Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling, Labour council leader T. Dan Smith and others (1972–1974): 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.




  • 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, 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.
  • Betsygate (2002), which revolved around the level of pay that Iain Duncan Smith's wife Elisabeth received as his diary secretary.
  • 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 stood down from the Welsh assembly following accusations of illicit gay sex. Davies had claimed he had been badger-watching in the area. (2003)[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • In 2005, David McLetchie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, was forced to resign after claiming the highest taxi expenses of any MSP.[16] 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 had the whip withdrawn for briefing against his leader to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
  • Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten resigned after it was revealed by the News of the World that he paid rentboys to perform sexual acts on him.[17]
  • David Mills financial allegations (2006). Tessa Jowell, Labour cabinet minister, was 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.[18] Nicknamed by the press as "Jowellgate".[19]
  • Cash for Honours (2006). 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 nor 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.[20]
  • 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.
  • Angus McNeil (2007). The married SNP MP who made the initial police complaint over the cash for honours scandal was forced to make an apology after it was revealed that in 2005 he had a "heavy petting" session with two teenage girls aged 17 and 18[21] in a hotel room at the same time his wife was pregnant with their third child.
  • News of the World royal phone hacking scandal
  • 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.[22] 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.[23]
  • On 24 January 2008, Peter Hain resigned his two cabinet posts (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Secretary of State for Wales) after the Electoral Commission referred donations to his Deputy Leadership campaign to the police.[24]
  • Derek Conway (2008). The Conservative Party MP was found to have reclaimed salaries he had paid to his two sons who had in fact not carried out the work to the extent claimed. He was ordered to repay £16,918, suspended from the House of Commons for 10 days and removed from the party whip.[25]
  • Cash for Influence (2009). Details of covertly recorded discussions with four Labour Party peers which their ability to influence legislation and the consultancy fees that they charged (including retainer payments of up to £120,000) were published by The Sunday Times.
  • United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal (2009). Widespread actual and alleged misuse of the permitted allowances and expenses claimed by Members of Parliament and attempts by MPs and peers to exempt themselves from Freedom of Information legislation.








  • 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".[34] It also led to questions about the Prime Minister's honesty with party donors' known tax statuses as Lord Ashcroft suggested he had openly discussed his non-domiciled status with him in 2009, earlier than previously thought.[35]







  • Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, was forced to resign in April after it was discovered that he had watched pornography in the House of Commons on at least two occasions.[54]
  • Chris Pincher scandal. Chris Pincher, the Deputy Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, resigned on 30th June following allegations about him groping two men.[55] Further allegations of harassment emerged against Pincher, along with claims that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already been informed of his behaviour. [56] The incremental effect of this and other recent controversies led to the resignation of 59 Conservative politicians, most notably Rishi Sunak as Chancellor and Sajid Javid as Health Secretary. This in turn, led to Boris Johnson committing to resign as leader of the Conservative Party, and thus as prime minister, when his replacement as leader had been chosen by his party.


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