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3 Feb, 2022 17:43

BoJo’s policy chief & long-time ally quits

Munira Mirza said she’s leaving Downing Street after PM accused Labour leader Starmer of not prosecuting “horrendous” pedophile Jimmy Savile
BoJo’s policy chief & long-time ally quits

Munira Mirza, Downing Street’s head of policy, handed her resignation letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday. Though Mirza is a long-time ally of Johnson, she said that his comments to Labour Party leader Keir Starmer – accusing Starmer of failing to prosecute child abuser Jimmy Savile during his time as Director of Public Prosecutions – were “a grave error of judgement.”

“I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice,” Mirza wrote in her letter, first published by the Spectator. “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.”

The scandal erupted on Monday when Johnson – facing a grilling from the opposition over his role in facilitating lockdown-defying parties at Downing Street  – sniped at Starmer that he had "spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can make out.”

Starmer was director of public prosecutions (DPP) and head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) between 2008 and 2013, during which time Surrey Police interviewed Savile and consulted with the CPS, which decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the former BBC presenter. According to the BBC, Starmer was likely unaware of the Saville case at the time, and it was not until Savile’s death in 2011 that his extensive history of child rape became public knowledge.

Facing backlash from Labour and from within his own party, Johnson told reporters on Tuesday that he wasn’t referring to Starmer’s “personal record when he was DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions.”

Mirza, who has worked with Johnson since his days as Mayor of London, urged Johnson to “apologise for a grave error of judgement made under huge pressure.”

“You are a better man than many of your detractors will ever understand which is why it is desperately sad that you let yourself down by making a scurrilous accusation against the Leader of the Opposition,” she wrote. “It is not too late for you but, I’m sorry to say, it is too late for me.”

Shortly after Mirza's statement, Downing Street Head of Communications Jack Doyle announced he was also leaving his post, the Daily Mail's Jason Groves wrote on Twitter. 

Doyle said he always intended to leave after two years and that his departure was not linked to Mirza's resignation, though he admitted the slew of recent scandals facing Johnson's government had "taken a terrible toll" on his family life.