Boris Johnson rocked by wave of No 10 resignations
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been rocked by a string of resignations from his team of aides in Downing Street.
Policy adviser Elena Narozanski is the latest to leave her role, after four senior staff members quit on Thursday.
Mr Johnson attempted to rally staff at a meeting on Friday morning, telling them “change is good”.
The PM is battling to save his premiership as Conservative MPs consider whether to oust him over lockdown parties in Downing Street.
A No 10 spokesman confirmed the PM quoted The Lion King character Rafiki, telling them “change is good”, at a meeting with his team and acknowledged it was a “challenging time”.
They added that Mr Johnson “reflected on the privilege of working in No 10” and “thanked those who are leaving for their contribution alongside the whole team for their work”.
On Friday morning, backbencher Huw Merriman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the PM should “shape up or ship out”.
But Energy Minister Greg Hands told BBC Breakfast the resignations came after Mr Johnson “made it clear there would be a shake-up” of the Downing Street operation, following criticism from senior civil servant Sue Gray in her report on rule-breaking parties.
When asked about Ms Gray’s findings, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the prime minister had “started making changes” and supported his leadership.
Three of the departed aides were caught up in the lockdown parties row, including senior civil servant Martin Reynolds, who sent out an invitation to a “bring your own booze” party.
But policy chief Munira Mirza quit over the PM’s false claim that Labour leader Sir Keir failed to prosecute Savile when he was director of public prosecutions, and his refusal to apologise.
In a scathing resignation letter, Ms Mirza – who worked alongside the PM for 14 years – described the his comments about Savile as “scurrilous”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak publicly distanced himself from the PM’s original comment, saying: “Being honest, I wouldn’t have said it.”
And asked if Mr Johnson should apologise, he said: “That’s for the prime minister to decide.”
The director of communications, Jack Doyle, confirmed his exit shortly after the departure of Ms Mirza.
Mr Doyle told staff that “recent weeks have taken a terrible toll on my family life”, but that he had always intended to leave after two years.
A statement from a No 10 spokeswoman said chief of staff Dan Rosenfield had offered his resignation to the prime minister earlier on Thursday, but would stay on while his successor was found.
And Mr Reynolds – the prime minister’s principal private secretary – will do the same, but then return to a role at the Foreign Office.
Ms Narozanski – who quit on Friday morning – is understood to have been loyal to Ms Mirza.
Ms Mirza’s resignation was the “most significant”, Labour’s shadow secretary for climate change Ed Miliband told the BBC.
Condemning the “terrible slur” against Sir Keir, Mr Miliband said the PM had become “a stain on our politics” and called on Tory MPs to oust him.