Fifth Johnson aide resigns as another Tory MP calls for him to quit
A City of Westminster worker cleans the street outside 10 Downing Stree in central London on Friday. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images
Boris Johnson’s leadership remained under pressure on Friday night after another Conservative MP called on him to step down and a fifth Downing Street adviser resigned within 24 hours. Aaron Bell, who criticised Mr Johnson in the House of Commons over the Downing Street parties this week, said he had submitted a letter calling for a no confidence vote in his leadership.
“The breach of trust that the events in Downing Street represent, and the manner in which they have been handled, makes his position untenable,” he said.
“As someone who backed Brexit and backed Boris Johnson for the leadership in 2019, I am profoundly disappointed that it has come to this.”
Elena Narozanksi, a member of the Downing Street policy unit, left on Friday morning, a day after head of policy Munira Mirza resigned in protest against Mr Johnson’s suggestion that Labour leader Keir Starmer was responsible for the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile.
The prime minister’s chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and director of communications Jack Doyle also resigned on Thursday.
Mr Johnson addressed Downing Street staff about the resignations on Friday morning, quoting from the Lion King to tell them “change is good”. And he wrote to Conservative MPs to say he was committed to improving how Downing Street works and to re-establish backbench policy committees.
“I want these policy committees to play an important role in generating ideas and discussion and so I encourage colleagues from across the party to get involved. I understand the deep importance of engaging with colleagues in parliament and listening to your views and that is why I want colleagues to have a direct line into 10 Downing Street,” he said.
Health secretary Sajid Javid followed chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak in distancing himself from the prime minister’s smear against Sir Keir, praising the Labour leader’s record as director of public prosecutions.
“Director of public prosecutions is a big job. It’s a very important job. And I think Sir Keir Starmer deserves the respect for taking on such a big public job and doing well,” Mr Javid said.
Levelling up secretary Michael Gove played down the turmoil in Downing Street during a visit to Sunderland on Friday, saying Mr Johnson should remain in office.
“I believe that the best thing for the country is for the prime minister to continue. I think he is doing a great job. Ultimately what happens in Westminster will interest those who are watchers of politics, but what really matters in a week’s or in a month’s or in a year’s time is are we bringing investment, jobs, and a brighter future for the people of Sunderland,” he said.
But former Conservative party chairman Chris Patten described Mr Johnson as “a moral vacuum”, adding that he had always believed his premiership would end in disaster.
“The problem isn’t just Boris. The problem is the party which chose him. Now, who are they said to want next? They are said to want Liz Truss, which I don’t think would be a frightfully good idea, to put it mildly. But there’s a real danger now of the government again playing to the right and doing stupid things about the Northern Ireland protocol,” he told the BBC.