Another adviser to Boris Johnson has reportedly quit after a day of departures dubbed the “meltdown in Downing Street”.
Elena Narozanski, a special adviser to the prime minister on women and equalities, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and extremism, has resigned, according to Paul Goodman, the editor of Conservative Home.
Narozanski’s departure on Friday follows the resignation of four key No 10 officials on Thursday: policy chief, Munira Mirza; chief of staff, Dan Rosenfield; the PM’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds; and director of communications, Jack Doyle.
Mirza abruptly resigned on Thursday afternoon after Johnson again declined to apologise for attempting to smear the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, over the case of the paedophile Jimmy Savile.
In a blistering letter, Mirza, who had worked with Johnson for 14 years since his days as London mayor, called the allegation “scurrilous”.
The three other resignations were then announced in quick succession on Thursday night, in what was seen widely in Westminster as an attempt to regain control.
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, made the clearest attempt yet to distance himself from Johnson on Thursday, saying of the Savile comments: “Being honest, I wouldn’t have said it and I’m glad that the prime minister clarified what he meant.”
Sunak also used a column in the Sun to further separate himself from the chaos in No 10. Setting out the measures he announced on Thursday to tackle the cost of living crisis, Sunak said: “We have always been the party of sound money – we will always continue to be on my watch – and that is the only kind of party I am interested in.” Sunak is widely seen as a frontrunner for the leadership if Johnson is dislodged.
Johnson has been fighting for his political life since the Met announced last week it was investigating gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall during lockdown.
More than 10 MPs have called on him publicly to resign. Several of these have announced they have sent in letters calling for a vote of no confidence in his leadership, and more are believed to have done so privately.
Mirza was quickly replaced on Thursday: close Johnson ally Andrew Griffith, a wealthy former Sky executive, will now head up Johnson’s policy unit as a minister.
Supportive MPs sought to portray the mass clearout as Johnson fulfilling his promise to MPs to shake up his Downing Street operation in the wake of the partygate allegations.
Doyle and Reynolds had both been expected to depart: Reynolds sent a leaked email inviting staff to “bring their own booze” to a gathering on 20 May 2020 that is one of 12 being investigated by the Metropolitan police.
The spate of resignations means the prime minister is left without a principal private secretary, a communications director or a chief of staff. Issuing a statement about Reynolds’ and Rosenfield’s departures on Thursday night, Downing Street said: “Recruitment for both posts is under way”.
A former senior No 10 official, Nikki da Costa, who worked with Mirza, said: “For me this has all the signs of being rushed, in order to try and regain control.”
She claimed there was a culture in Downing Street under Rosenfield in which some staff found themselves “marginalised”.
“We had a change of chief of staff in December last year . What has happened in terms of the culture, that team hasn’t been built and morale has been undermined, and certainly there has been a culture in which if you aren’t somebody who says yes and falls into line, then you quickly find yourself marginalised, and if you deliver bad news then you feel marginalised,” she told the BBC’s Today programme.
She added that there were “longstanding issues” in No 10 that were “starting to come to a head”.