Senior civil servant among top Boris Johnson aides quitting No.10

PPS Martin Reynolds, policy-unit chief Munira Mirza, chief of staff Dan Rosenfield and comms director Jack Doyle resign from Downing Street
Martin Reynolds and Boris Johnson. Photo: PA Images/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

04 Feb 2022

Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and three other senior No. 10 aides have resigned.

The senior civil servant, who was responsible for the notorious “bring your own booze” email inviting colleagues to a party during lockdown in May 2020, will stay in the role until a successor is found.

He will then move on to a new role at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, CSW's sister title PoliticsHome reported.

The prime minister’s policy chief was the first to quit yesterday. Munira Mirza, head of the No.10 Policy Unit, criticised Johnson’s lack of apology for claiming Keir Starmer had personally failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

In her resignation letter to the PM, Mirza wrote: “I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice.

“There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. 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.

“You tried to clarify your position today but, despite my urging, you did not apologise for the misleading impression you gave.”

Mirza had worked for Johnson for 14 years, including when he was mayor of London.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “We are very sorry Munira has left No 10 and are grateful for her service and contribution to government.”

Andrew Griffith, Johnson’s ex-business tsar, has replaced her as head of the No.10 Policy Unit. 

A No.10 spokesperson said he will “work across government and with MPs as we continue to deliver and expand on our ambitious policy agenda”.

Jack Doyle, the PM’s director of communication, was the next to resign, reportedly telling staff: "It was always my intention to do two years. Recent weeks have taken a terrible toll on my family life."

A Downing Street spokesperson confirmed Doyle had left, saying: "He has made a huge contribution and the prime minister is immensely grateful for the work he has done.”

Reynolds and the PM’s chief of staff Dan Rosenfield then offered their resignations in last night’s final departures.

A No.10 pokesperson said: “Dan Rosenfield offered his resignation to the prime minister earlier today, which has been accepted.

“Martin Reynolds also informed the prime minister of his intention to stand down from his role as principal private secretary and the prime minister has agreed to this.

“He has thanked them both for their significant contribution to government and No 10, including work on the pandemic response and economic recovery.

“They will continue in their roles while successors are appointed, and recruitment for both posts is under way.”

Elena Narozanski, another adviser in Murza’s Policy Unit, also quit this morning, according to the Conservative Home website.

The affair which led to Mirza’s resignation started on Monday, with Johnson in the firing line, delivering the Sue Gray Partygate report to parliament.

After being attacked for his role in the Covid rule-breaking parties scandal by Starmer, Johnson accused the Labour leader of “spending most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile” whilst director of public prosecutions from 2008-2013.

Starmer had no personal role in decisions connected to Savile’s case but did apologise on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service for the failings in the handling of the case.

The leader of the opposition accused Johnson of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists” at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Johnson eventually backtracked on his initial comment, saying yesterday: “Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m talking not about the leader of the opposition’s personal record when he was director of public prosecutions and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions.

“I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole.”

This was not enough to placate Mirza, however, for whom sorry was the most important word.

“Even now, I hope you find it in yourself to apologise for a grave error of judgement made under huge pressure,” she said.

“I appreciate that our political culture is not forgiving when people say sorry, but regardless, it is the right thing to do. It is not too late for you, but I’m sorry to say, it is too late for me.”

Johnson is under pressure to overhaul No.10, and changes to his leadership team were expected after Monday’s Gray report called for the government to address failures of leadership and judgement.

Gray also raised concern about blurred lines of accountability and a No.10 operation that has expanded without sufficient structures to keep it in check in her Partygate report.

The PM responded by announcing he would create a No.10 department or Office of No.10.

With additional reporting by Kate Proctor, John Johnston and Noa Hoffman of CSW's sister title PoliticsHome

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