Boris Johnson’s policy chief has quit over the prime minister’s use of a discredited claim that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.
Munira Mirza has resigned from her £145,000-a-year role after Mr Johnson today declined to apologise for his comments.
In a resignation letter to the prime minister, as published by The Spectator magazine, Ms Mirza wrote: “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.”
Ms Mirza’s departure will come as a fresh blow to Mr Johnson as he seeks to shore up his position in Number 10 amid the partygate scandal.
She has been a longtime ally of the prime minister and previously worked with Mr Johnson when he was London mayor.
Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s estranged former chief adviser, praised Ms Mirza’s “moral courage”.
He added on Twitter: “It’s also an unmistakeable signal the bunker is collapsing & *this PM is finished*.”
Downing Street revealed that Ms Mirza had been replaced as the head of the Number 10 policy unit by Arundel and South Downs MP, Andrew Griffith.
A spokesperson said: “We are very sorry Munira has left Number 10 and are grateful for her service and contribution to government.”
The row over Mr Johnson’s comments about Savile followed his appearance in the House of Commons on Monday, when he faced a grilling by MPs over a Whitehall investigation into alleged lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.
As he responded to Sir Keir in the Commons, Mr Johnson referred to the Labour leader’s former role as director of public prosecutions.
The prime minister claimed Sir Keir had “spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can make out”.
With Mr Johnson’s remarks having caused uproar in Westminster, including among some Conservative MPs, Sir Keir later accused the prime minister of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points”.
The victims of Savile, a prolific sex offender, also demanded Mr Johnson withdraw his comments.
The prime minister attempted to “clarify” his remarks on Thursday as he made a visit to Blackpool.
“I want to be very clear about this because a lot of people have got very hot under the collar, and I understand why,” Mr Johnson said.
“Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m talking not about the leader of the opposition’s personal record when he was DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions.
“I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole.
“I really do want to clarify that because it is important.”