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UK’s Boris Johnson ends week of turmoil in a weakened position


UK’s Boris Johnson ends week of turmoil in a weakened position.

This was the week that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hoped to bring his government under control after weeks of scandal. By Friday, he was struggling to hang on after a scathing report about lockdown-breaking parties and the departure of several of his top advisers.

Johnson was rocked Thursday by the resignation of his policy chief, Munira Mirza, a trusted adviser who worked with him for more than a decade.

Mirza supported the prime minister amid revelations that Johnson and his staff violated the rules they had imposed on the country. But she said Johnson’s “scurrilous accusation” this week that an opposition leader had failed to stop a notorious pedophile was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“This was not the normal cut and thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sexual abuse,” Mirza wrote in a resignation letter, which was published by The Spectator magazine.

After Mirza’s resignation, Johnson’s office announced the departure of three other top officials: Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield, Communications Director Jack Doyle and Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds. Elena Narozanski, who worked in Murza’s policy unit, resigned on Friday.

Conservative lawmakers loyal to Johnson described the departures as part of a planned review to restore order to his office at 10 Downing Street.

“The prime minister was absolutely clear on Monday that there would be changes to the top of the number 10 and that is what he has delivered,” Energy Minister Greg Hands said. “This is the prime minister taking charge.”

Others were not so sure. The prime minister’s grip on power has been shaken by public anger at revelations that his staff held office parties, birthday celebrations and “wine time Fridays” on occasion in 2020 and 2021, while millions in Britain have been barred from meeting friends and family due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A total of 16 matches have been investigated by a senior official, Sue Gray, with a dozen of them also under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

On Monday, Gray released an interim report looking at the four law enforcement parties that are not investigating. He found that “failures of leadership and judgment” allowed events to occur that “should not have been allowed” and described a Downing Street operation marked by heavy drinking and a dysfunctional dynamic.

Johnson apologized and promised to fix the problems in his office, though he did not admit any personal wrongdoing.

Rosenfield, Doyle and especially Reynolds, who sent 100 government employees an invitation to a BYOB garden party in May 2020, were always likely to be pushed out as part of Johnson’s post-partygate shakeup.

But Mirza’s departure was a serious blow. In his resignation letter, he said Johnson had not followed his advice to apologize for accusing Labor Party leader Keir Starmer in the House of Commons on Monday of “not prosecuting Jimmy Savile” when Starmer was the director of prosecutions. UK public. Savile was a longtime youth TV show host who was exposed after his death in 2011 as a sexual predator who had abused hundreds of children.

Starmer called the allegation “a ridiculous insult spread by right-wing trolls.” A 2013 report found that Starmer had not been involved in decisions about whether Savile should be prosecuted.

Some Conservatives also backed down at the use of Savile in a political attack. In his resignation letter, Mirza said Johnson had been disappointed “by making a strange accusation against the leader of the opposition.”

The exodus from Downing Street is causing new commotions among Conservative lawmakers, who are reflecting on the possibility of requesting a motion of no confidence in the leader who earned them a large parliamentary majority just over two years ago. Under party rules, such a vote is triggered if 15% of the party’s lawmakers, currently 54 people, write letters requesting one. If Johnson lost that vote, he would be replaced as party leader and prime minister.

Only about a dozen Conservative lawmakers have publicly called for Johnson to resign, though the number of those who have written letters may be higher. Many others are waiting for his time, waiting to see if the police censure the prime minister and what Gray will say in the final report on him, once he completes the criminal investigation.

Huw Merriman, a moderate Conservative lawmaker, said the prime minister had to get fit or leave.

“My constituents are upset,” he told the BBC. “I feel like we’ve lost face and public trust with them. We have to get that back.”


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