Sunak slams Johnson as No. 10 resignation buffet

Boris Johnson was publicly criticized by Chancellor Rishi Sunak for his conduct on Thursday, a day of chaos when four of the Prime Minister’s top aides left Downing Street.

Munira Mirza, head of Johnson’s political unit and close ally for nearly 15 years, resigned, on Monday denouncing Johnson’s claim that Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer had failed to prosecute late sex offender Jimmy Savile.

Rather than defending Johnson, Sunak used a Downing Street press conference to describe Mirza as a “valued colleague” while undermining the prime minister by saying, “To be honest, I wouldn’t have said that.”

Mirza’s allies say she quit ‘on a point of principle’, but within hours Johnson had launched a brutal, albeit long-planned, cleanup of her Downing Street team, with other senior advisers joining in. leading to the exit.

Dan Rosenfield, Johnson’s chief of staff, resigned after failing to rein in a chaotic Number 10 operation, which is torn by factions.

Munira Mirza had worked with Johnson since he was Mayor of London © PA

Martin Reynolds, the principal private secretary in Johnson’s office who hosted the BYOB party in the Downing Street garden, also resigned after a conversation with Johnson.

Jack Doyle, Johnson’s communications director, also left, telling friends he only intended to do the job for two years.

Some Tory MPs had demanded the upheaval as the price for continuing to support the beleaguered PM; Tory insiders claimed Johnson decided to launch the Number 10 revamp on Thursday to make it look like Mirza’s surprise resignation was part of a strategy.

Nikki da Costa, Johnson’s former head of legal affairs, said it would hurt the prime minister’s supporters to “suggest Munira was part of a cleanup plan”.

Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, urged others to join the exodus, writing on Twitter that the prime minister was “over”. He added: “Push what falls.”

Sunak said he would “miss working with Munira”, who was arguably Johnson’s most valuable aide since he was mayor of London.

Downing Street officials say Johnson views his chancellor, a potential leadership rival, with growing suspicion.

Mirza said in his resignation letter that the prime minister had “no fair or reasonable basis” to accuse Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, of failing to act against Savile, a notorious paedophile.

“It wasn’t the usual cut and push of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrific case of child sexual abuse,” she wrote in her resignation letter.

Speaking ahead of Mirza’s resignation on Thursday, Johnson tried to back down on the issue: “I’m not talking about the opposition leader’s personal record when he was DPP and I fully understand that he’s not personally has nothing to do with these decisions.”

The resignations intensified speculation over Johnson’s future as party leader; on Wednesday, three other Tory MPs publicly addressed letters of censure to him.

Mirza was quickly replaced as head of political unit number 10 by Andrew Griffith, Sky’s former chief financial officer who became an MP in 2019. In what turned out to be a farewell briefing from Doyle, he told the Financial Times that Griffith would be “creative and imaginative” in the role.

Downing Street officials said a big divide had opened up over Savile’s insult. Some aides urged Johnson to apologize while others believed the row would provide political cover for the partygate scandal.

Mirza’s departure follows pressure on the Prime Minister to overhaul his Downing Street operation in response to the findings of the Gray report, which noted “failures of leadership and judgment” over Downing Street parties and of Whitehall.

Mirza was seen as a leader of the declining ‘Town Hall’ faction that followed Johnson on a journey from his days as London mayor, through the Brexit referendum and on to Downing Street .

“This is really going to hurt. The Prime Minister likes him very much. He was very faithful to her. She was with him from the start, from City Hall to Number 10. The sudden and unexpected departure will be very painful,” Guto Harri, a former Johnson spokesman, told the FT.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also faced Thursday an official reproach from the head of the UK Statistics Authority on his use of crime data in the House of Commons.

Additional reporting by Sebastian Payne and Robert Wright

Comments are closed.