Boris Johnson’s key aides quit, leaving the Premier on the brink

Departure of Munira Mirza is a huge blow for the UK Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson on November 23, 2021. Image: Neil Hall/EPA/Bloomberg

The crisis engulfing Boris Johnson’s government deepened as four top aides quit, with one unleashing a devastating attack on his judgment.

The UK prime minister’s chief of staff, Dan Rosenfield, and his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds both resigned on Thursday, as did his director of communications, Jack Doyle.

But perhaps the most damaging was the exit of Munira Mirza, one of his longest-standing allies, who quit as head of the policy unit in protest over a “scurrilous” remark Johnson made about opposition rival Keir Starmer.

One former minister talked about Johnson’s premiership with a hint of melancholy, as if it was already effectively over. Another Tory MP said that Mirza’s resignation was a huge blow to Johnson. A third said that her letter made it clear that there is now an organised plot against the premier and it may well succeed in bringing him down.

“Very clear that Munira Mirza thinks that the PM should go and, by resigning and publishing this letter, she is trying to facilitate that,” former Conservative minister David Gauke, who was removed from the parliamentary party by Johnson during the wrangling over Brexit in 2019, said on Twitter. “Nearly everyone draws a line at some point.”

The pressure for Johnson to step down has been increasing among members of his Conservative party after a series of missteps and allegations he and his team held rule-breaking parties during the pandemic.

Johnson is also grappling with escalating tensions over a Russian troop build-up near Ukraine, and a growing cost-of-living squeeze on households.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Thursday unveiled a 9 billion-pound ($12 billion) package of measures that only partially offsets a 54% hike in domestic energy bills announced by the energy regulator Ofgem. Meanwhile the Bank of England increased its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 0.5% in a bid to contain the fastest inflation in three decades.

‘Last Days of Rome’

Asked by Channel 4 News if Thursday’s developments felt like “the last days of Rome,” Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, a member of Johnson’s cabinet, replied: “The last days of Rome, I think, were more fun.”

The so-called partygate scandal is being investigated by the police and has seen support for Johnson’s Tories — and his own personal ratings — plummet. At least 14 of his members of Parliament have called on him to resign or said they’ve lost confidence in him. Others have said they’ll reserve judgment until the police reach their conclusions.

Johnson’s administration was censured on Monday for “failures of leadership and judgment” in a civil service investigation into the lockdown gatherings, which had to be watered down so as not to prejudice the criminal probe.

Amid the fallout, Johnson promised to “fix it,” including by overhauling his office. Yet Johnson told 5 News he was “sorry” to lose Mirza, who he described as a “wonderful colleague for a long time” and praised for doing “an outstanding job.”

On Wednesday, three more Tory MPs submitted letters calling for a vote of no-confidence in him. That would be triggered if the number reaches 54 — or 15% of the total. The running tally remains private until the threshold is reached.

Savile slur

In her resignation letter, Mirza cited Johnson’s accusation that Labour Party leader Starmer — in a former role as director of public prosecutions — was personally responsible for allowing serial child-sex abuser Jimmy Savile to escape justice, according to the Spectator magazine.

“This was not the usual cut and thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse,” Mirza said in her resignation letter, according to the Spectator magazine. Mirza began working with Johnson when he became London mayor in 2008.

UK Conservative Party Annual Conference

Munira Mirza, head of the Downing Street policy unit, on day three of the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester, UK, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. The UK’s governing Conservatives are meeting for their annual conference as the country grapples with a series of crises that threatens to undermine its economic recovery from the pandemic.

Adding to the sense of crisis, Sunak — one of the favourites to succeed him — offered only a lukewarm defence of Johnson in a televised press conference, even as he said the premier “has my support.”

“I wouldn’t have said it,” Sunak said in reference to the Savile remark. Asked if Johnson should apologise, he replied: “It’s a question for the prime minister rather than me.”

Johnson had taken aim at the Labour leader in the House of Commons on Monday, as he responded to the report into the pandemic parties. Trying to rally his MPs during a heated session, the prime minister accused Starmer of spending most of his time in his previous role “prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile.”

But the comment backfired, and led to a storm of criticism because Starmer was not personally involved in the Savile case.

Former Tory cabinet minister Amber Rudd told ITV the comments were a “Trumpian response to try and deflect from himself and use something so outrageous that people will talk about that rather than the big issue.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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Trump and Johnson coupled at the tote when it comes to telling lies.
We all know what happens to the morality and ethics of a country when the man at the top doesn’t know truth from lies! Beware Britain….unless you get rid of him, you are doomed…just like the USA, South Africa, Russia and all the other countries who have been led by devious, self serving leaders.
Johnson’s biggest failure,in my mind, is not just “partygate”. It’s his incredible ability to walk away from an imprisioned woman in Iran – 6 yrs in prison thanks to Boris when he was Foreign Minister. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Nazanin Radcliffe…separated from her child for 5 years now thanks to Boris ineptitude! May you rot in hell Mr Johnson.

End of comments.

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