James Forsyth

Exclusive: No. 10 policy chief quits over Boris’s Jimmy Savile slur

Munira Mirza's departure will be painful for the Prime Minister

Exclusive: No. 10 policy chief quits over Boris's Jimmy Savile slur
In happier times: Munira Mirza and Boris Johnson (Getty images)
Text settings
Comments

Munira Mirza, the Downing Street head of policy, has resigned over Boris Johnson’s Jimmy Savile attack on Keir Starmer. Mirza, who has worked with Johnson for 14 years and who he named as one of the five women who have most inspired him, quit this afternoon.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mirza writes: 

‘I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice. There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. 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.’

Mirza is one of the people in Downing Street who was most loyal to the Prime Minister personally. She had worked with him since his London Mayor days and had stayed out of the various factional fights that have raged in Downing Street these past few years. Her departure is devastating for Johnson and an illustration of what a self-inflicted blow his ill-thought out attempt to link Starmer to Savile was.

Mirza found the decision extremely difficult. She has long been one of Johnson’s most valued allies and one of the most creative thinkers in his circle. She praises him as ‘a man of extraordinary abilities with a unique talent for connecting with people.’ She goes on: 

‘You are a better man than many of your detractors will ever understand which is why it is so desperately sad that you let yourself down by making a scurrilous accusation against the Leader of the Opposition.’

Johnson will feel Mirza’s departure. She is someone who has been vital to his remarkable political journey from City Hall to Vote Leave to Downing Street. That she has quit over the Savile line should make Johnson realise what a terrible mistake it was and how it has further weakened his position.

Here is Mirza’s letter of resignation to the PM:

Dear Prime Minister,

It is with great regret that I am writing to resign as your Head of Policy.

You are aware of the reason for my decision: I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice. There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. This was not the normal 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.

I have served you for fourteen years and it has been a privilege to do so. You have achieved many important things both as Prime Minister and, before that, as Mayor of London. You are a man of extraordinary abilities with a unique talent for connecting with people.

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.

Even now, I hope you find it in yourself to apologise for a grave error of judgement made under huge pressure. I appreciate that our political culture is not forgiving when people say sorry, but regardless, it is the right thing to do. It is not too late for you but, I’m sorry to say, it is too late for me.

Yours sincerely,

Munira

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

Comments
Topics in this articlePolitics