LONDON, Feb 3 (Reuters) – Four of Boris Johnson’s closest aides resigned on Thursday in a turbulent day for his government, as the British prime minister tried to reset his administration in the face of a series of scandals that have put his position in peril.
Johnson’s premiership is facing a growing crisis in the wake of anger over a series of alcohol-fuelled parties held at his Downing Street office and residence during coronavirus lockdowns which followed other missteps.
Angry lawmakers in his own Conservative Party, some of whom have already called for his resignation, have demanded an overhaul of his Downing Street operation if he is to remain in power.
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On Thursday, three of his top aides – Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield, Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds, and Director of Communications Jack Doyle – all resigned in what some Conservative lawmakers (MPs) said looked like the start of a somewhat disorganised reset in Johnson’s administration.
However a fourth quit over a barb Johnson made at the leader of the main opposition Labour party, something for which his finance minister also criticised him.
“On Monday Boris Johnson promised MPs change. Tonight we see that change starting to happen and I welcome this quick action by the prime minister,” lawmaker Stuart Anderson said on Twitter, one of a number of Johnson supporters who took to social media to applaud the shake-up.
Johnson pledged to change his leadership style after a report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into the gatherings held at his Downing Street office and residence condemned “serious failures of leadership”. read more
Rosenfield, Reynolds and Doyle were directly linked to the gatherings – Reynolds was reported to have sent an email asking attendees to “bring your own booze” to one. read more
Johnson’s office said Rosenfield and Reynolds would remain in their posts for the time being.
Whether the clear out in Johnson’s top team will be enough to see off the crisis remains to be seen.
COST OF LIVING SQUEEZE
His personal ratings have plummeted and his party has fallen well behind Labour in opinion polls amid a series of scandals and gaffes. The police are still investigating 12 of the lockdown gatherings, and a more detailed report from Gray with potentially more damaging revelations could follow afterwards.
The political problems also come as British households face a cost of living squeeze with energy prices set to soar in April, while the Bank of England also raised interest rates again on Thursday. read more
Johnson, who won a massive majority for the Conservatives in a 2019 election, has also been condemned this week for accusing Labour leader Keir Starmer of failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, one of Britain’s worst sex offenders, during his time as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The false claim, which Starmer said amounted to Johnson “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists”, has angered not only opponents but also some within his own party.
Johnson has declined to apologise but did back down from the comments on Thursday, saying “a lot of people have got very hot under the collar”.
Four aides quit as UK’s Johnson seeks to reset beleaguered premiership