August 8, 2022

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LONDON—Four of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior aides quit on Thursday, as the...

LONDON—Four of British Prime Minister
Boris Johnson’s
most senior aides quit on Thursday, as the fallout of a probe into lockdown parties continues to reverberate at the top of the British government.
Mr. Johnson’s chief of staff, head of communications, personal private secretary and long serving policy chief all quit, the government said, upending the prime minister’s Downing Street operation. The resignations come as the police continue to investigate 12 gatherings that took place in government offices during several Covid-19 lockdowns over the past two years.

A government report into the affair published this week criticized the culture in Downing Street and pointed to failings of leadership. It listed 16 gatherings that took place on government property, including in Mr. Johnson’s own residence, at times when normal people were ordered to either reduce or stop socializing.

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Since its publication several Conservative lawmakers have publicly demanded that Mr. Johnson step down over the alleged rule breaking. The prime minister has previously denied knowingly breaking rules and has apologized.
On Friday, the government sought to play down the departures. Energy Minister Greg Hands told the British Broadcasting Corp., “We shouldn’t be surprised if there are changes.”
It was widely expected that the prime minister would overhaul his Downing Street team in response to the report’s findings. Downing Street has acknowledged that Mr. Johnson’s private secretary,
Martin Reynolds,
sent an email to about 100 staffers inviting them to a “bring your own booze” event in May 2020, at a time when it was only permitted to meet one other person outside.

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During a session of Parliament, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized for attending a party on Downing Street in 2020 while strict Covid-19 lockdown measures were in place. Johnson said he believed it was a “work event.” Photo: PRU/AFP via Getty Images

Mr. Johnson’s chief of staff,
Dan Rosenfield,
has been in charge of helping manage the fallout of the scandal that is known as “partygate.” A government spokesman said both Messrs. Reynolds and Rosenfield would remain in their jobs until successors are found.
However the departure of the prime minister’s policy chief
Munira Mirza
came as a surprise. Ms. Mirza is one of Mr. Johnson’s longest-serving allies, working with him for over a decade including when he was mayor of London. Mr. Johnson once named her as one of the most influential women in his life.
In her resignation letter Ms. Mirza criticized remarks that Mr. Johnson made earlier this week about Labour Party leader Keir Starmer.
Mr. Starmer is a former lawyer who rose to be director of public prosecutions in England. On Monday, Mr. Johnson falsely accused Mr. Starmer of “prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute
Jimmy Savile,
” a now deceased British celebrity who, according to a government inquiry, was a child abuser.
Following pressure from his own lawmakers Mr. Johnson clarified his remarks on Thursday saying, “I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole. I really do want to clarify that because it is important.”
The departures, which include head of communications
Jack Doyle,
are a blow for Mr. Johnson as he tries to regain momentum following the government report’s publication. So far a mass rebellion by his Conservative lawmakers hasn’t materialized.
If 54 lawmakers send letters of no-confidence to a special Tory committee a ballot is triggered to determine whether Mr. Johnson remains leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister on. The running total is a closely held secret.
Many lawmakers say they are awaiting the police investigation to conclude before deciding their leader’s fate. It is unclear when the police probe will end.
Write to Max Colchester at [email protected]

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Appeared in the February 4, 2022, print edition as ‘Top Johnson Aides Quit Amid Probe.’


Boris Johnson Aides Quit Amid Scandal Over Lockdown Parties appeared first on