UK: Five top aides to Prime Minister Johnson step down amid ‘partygate’ scandal
Five top aides to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have resigned from 10 Downing Street within hours of each other, dealing a fresh blow to his embattled government amid ‘partygate’ scandal.
The UK premier’s policy chief Munira Mirza, chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, and communications director Jack Doyle stepped down on Thursday, days after an incriminating probe confirmed multiple lockdown-breaching parties at the 10 Downing Street.
The mass exodus of Johnson’s key advisors came as he continues to resist calls for his resignation even after the probe report blasted “failures of leadership and judgment” at 10 Downing Street.
The drinks parties, which have stirred up a hornet’s nest in the UK, were hosted at Johnson’s official residence at a time when the country was under the strict coronavirus lockdown.
The report of the exhaustive investigation, made public on Monday, confirmed multiple parties and a culture of excessive drinking at Downing Street.
British media has described Mirza’s departure as “the most consequential,” citing her reputation as one of Johnson’s longtime allies and a key political player who helped shape his platform – which also made her unpopular with other members of the ruling Conservative Party.
While Doyle’s departure was expected, Rosenfield and Reynolds’ resignations are being framed as part of a shake-up Johnson promised after the revelations from Monday’s report.
A report in BBC quoted Doyle telling her staff that “recent weeks have taken a terrible toll on my family life”, but that he had always intended to leave after two years.
Mirza, meanwhile, explained that her decision was motivated by controversial comments made by Johnson about opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer.
Johnson on Monday alleged that Starmer failed to prosecute Britain’s most notorious pedophile, Jimmy Saville, while serving as the director of public prosecutions, which prompted Starmer to accuse the prime minister of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try and score cheap political points.”
Mirza in her resignation letter said she believed “it was wrong” for Johnson “to imply that Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Savile to escape justice, calling it “unfair and unreasonable”.
Johnson rejected the notion that his remarks about Starmer were inappropriate but told media that he was “sorry to lose” Mirza, who had worked with him for 14 years.
The development came a day after three fresh calls from within Johnson’s own party, asking him to step down.