LONDON (AP) — Four of Boris Johnson’s top aides resigned on Thursday, sparking further turmoil for the embattled British prime minister.
Johnson’s office said chief of staff Dan Rosenfield and principal private secretary Martin Reynolds had both tendered their resignations. Communications director Jack Doyle and senior adviser Munira Mirza also said they had left Downing Street.
Reynolds is a key figure in the ‘partygate’ scandal over lockdown-breaking parties hosted by Johnson and his staff during the coronavirus pandemic. He sent an invitation to around 100 staff to a ‘bring your own booze’ garden party in May 2020, when Britons were banned from socializing in groups under restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 .
The garden gathering is one of 16 alleged parties being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray. A dozen events are also being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.
This week, Gray released an interim report examining the four parties that police are not investigating. She found that ‘flaws in leadership and judgement’ allowed events to happen ‘that shouldn’t have happened’ and described a Downing Street operation marked by excessive drinking and dysfunctional dynamics .
Johnson apologized and pledged to fix problems in his office, but did not admit to personal wrongdoing.
The Prime Minister’s grip on power has been shaken by revelations that his staff have been hosting ‘bring your own booze’ office parties, birthday celebrations and ‘wine Fridays’ in 2020 and 2021, while millions of people in Britain were barred from meeting friends and family.
Lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservative Party are considering whether to seek a vote of no confidence in the leader that won them a large parliamentary majority just over two years ago. Under party rules, such a vote is triggered if 15% of party lawmakers — currently 54 people — write letters asking for one. If Johnson lost such a vote, he would be replaced as party leader and prime minister.
It’s unclear how many letters have been sent, although a handful of lawmakers said this week they were seeking a vote of no confidence. Tory discontent grew after Johnson on Monday accused opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer in the House of Commons of ‘failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile’ when he was director of public prosecutions from the United Kingdom. Savile was a veteran TV personality who was revealed after his death in 2011 as one of Britain’s worst serial sex offenders.
Starmer said it was “a ridiculous insult peddled by right-wing trolls”, and some conservatives also balked at the attack. Mirza, who has worked for Johnson since he was mayor of London ten years ago, resigned following Savile’s comment.
‘You are a better man than many of your detractors will ever understand which is why it is so desperately sad that you have let yourself down by bringing a scurrilous accusation against the Leader of the Opposition,’ she wrote. in a resignation letter, published by Spectator magazine – of which Johnson is a former editor.
As Johnson’s troubles mounted on Thursday, a government minister, Chief Treasury Secretary Simon Clarke, was asked by Channel 4 News if it looked like ‘the last days of Rome’ in Downing Street.
“The last days in Rome, I think, were more fun,” he said.