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3 February 2022updated 04 Feb 2022 8:40am

Night of the long knives at Downing Street as four senior aides resign

Boris Johnson is a prime minister in crisis, rather than in control.

By Ailbhe Rea

Dan Rosenfield and Martin Reynolds have resigned as chief of staff in Number 10 and as the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, the third and fourth departures from Boris Johnson’s Downing Street on a dramatic night of the long knives in the wake of Partygate.

With Westminster reeling from the resignation this afternoon of Munira Mirza, one of Johnson’s most trusted and highly-rated aides since his days as London Mayor, three further departures have been confirmed: Jack Doyle, the director of communications whose resignation came within hours of Mirza’s, and Rosenfield and Reynolds, who are understood to have resigned this morning.

[See also: The anti-Cummings: how Dan Rosenfield became Boris Johnson’s chief of staff]

While Mirza’s punchy resignation letter underlined the displeasure of a previously loyal footsoldier to Johnson after his untrue Jimmy Savile claims about Keir Starmer, the other three resignations are thought to be the result of Johnson’s “shake up” in the light of the “partygate” scandal. Reynolds was the author of the fateful email inviting staff to a “bring your own booze” event in the garden of Number 10, while Doyle is alleged to have handed out awards at a Christmas party in Number 10 during lockdown. Rosenfield, as chief of staff, is also held personally responsible for the culture in Downing Street under his management.

But their departures in the wake of Mirza’s dramatic – and damning – letter of resignation rather project an image of confidence ebbing away from Johnson’s Downing Street operation, rather than projecting the leadership and reset he has long planned since the scandal over parties began to unfold. There is no love lost for Rosenfield among Conservative special advisers, who were largely unimpressed and “soft alientated”, as one put it, by him during his time in post. But there is much upset among Downing Street civil servants at the departure of Reynolds and Rosenfield this evening, and the heart of Johnson’s operation is a deeply unhappy place. These exits – and they may well not be the last – are further evidence of a Prime Minister in crisis, rather than in control.

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