by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 4
February 2022
Explainer
11:36

What Munira Mirza’s departure really means

The departing Head of Policy was in charge of fighting the culture war
by Freddie Sayers
Munira Mirza and the Prime Minister

You don’t leave a boss you have been working with for 14 years because he made a single ill-judged gaffe in the House of Commons. Munira Mirza’s elegantly expressed resignation, apparently on the basis of the Jimmy Savile comments, is surely about much more than that.

The timing of her walk-out is interesting. It suggests she thinks Boris is doomed and that she is considering her next moves. She made her announcement half an hour before Rishi Sunak’s presidential address on cost of living. Might this suggest she has thrown her lot in with the Chancellor, and that with Cummings in the wings, Sunak could be the new vehicle to get the old gang back together? We will see soon enough.

It’s on the philosophical level that Munira’s departure is most significant, though. And the effect that it will have on Team Boris. Despite her broad brief as Head of Policy she was known to be the person within the administration in charge of pushing back on progressive fundamentalism around race, gender and the accompanying threat to free speech. If anyone was concerned with rolling back the “long march through the institutions” of the Blair years and putting conservatives in positions of cultural influence, it was her.

She was closely involved in the “Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities” report that appeared last year — subject to predictable attacks in the Left-wing media — and which made genuinely brave statements about the difficulty of focusing on race to the exclusion of economic factors. Its recommendations are waiting to be formally adopted by the Government.

It was Munira who put Kishwer Falkner at the helm of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and brought in voices such as David Goodhart and Jessica Butcher (again, despite the predictable attempt to resist them) — the combined effect of which has been to radically change the orientation of that organisation. On issues like the ongoing trans controversy, we should expect a very different tone from now on.

On the question of freedom of speech, she has been a powerful voice within Government to try to avoid a culture of censorship.

I know this first-hand. When I got in touch to express my concerns about the impact the so-called “Online Safety Bill” would have on new media publications like ours, Mirza not only responded straight away but set up a meeting with her and Elena Narozanski (who was leading on the Online Safety Bill, and who also resigned this morning) to hear more. How many senior officials would do that? The draft bill that ensued is not perfect by any means, but compared with the heavy-handed government-approved censorship that is taking place in the US, it represents a much more sensible starting point. Other initiatives such as the recent government bill to protect freedom of speech on university campuses, for example, have been driven by her office.

So Munira Mirza mattered a lot. For a nominal populist, Boris Johnson was known to be oddly embarrassed of what he called “culture war” issues; he was keen not to be “Britain’s Trump” and found them distasteful. Ultimately Mirza cannot have felt properly supported in her mission — otherwise she wouldn’t have left. She leaves an ideologically listing ship with very little ballast left at her end of these important arguments.

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Stephen Walshe
Stephen Walshe
6 months ago

What it means is that Munira Mirza is working for Rishi Sunak now, as evidenced by the fact the story was given first to James Forsyth, whose best man was Sunak. Both Mirza and Cummings appear to be outriders for Sunak, while the public is being played.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

Or is Sunak an outrider for Cummings

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
6 months ago

I don’t know of anything substantial she has done against wokery. Carrie would put a stop to anything like that, anyway. A word in the ear of her hubby and she gets him posturing about climate change and about trans conversion therapy.

Matt M
Matt M
6 months ago
Reply to  Charles Lewis

It is a great shame because I think there was (and probably still is) an opportunity to make much more use of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report. Boris should have been brandishing it at every opportunity, whenever a woke story flared up, saying: Look! We are a supremely tolerant country and not at all prejudiced. We have no reason to apologise for our past. As you and Freddy say, Boris (or Carrie) must find that sort of thing a bit vulgar.

David McDowell
David McDowell
6 months ago
Reply to  Charles Lewis

Exactly. What sort of culture war was she fighting?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
6 months ago

“Nominal populist”, the perfect summary of Johnson’s profile. Scratch at the paintwork and what stands revealed is another spineless, drifting “liberal”, with neither the courage nor the depth to quiz or even delay the coercive-progressive agenda. Mirza’s departure is not to be underestimated. It is far less a matter of positioning than of despair – despair that man who began his career as the jocular representative of common sense, or “populism”, has progressively fallen under the baleful influence of a green cabal, finally stitched into place with his latest marriage. This is why any Tory MP who thinks it “wise” to wait before ditching the PM is brutally mistaken. Johnson, and the cancerous little coterie which has stitched him up, must be excised from number ten at once – because the damage they have done, are doing and will continue to do are of appalling magnitude.

Last edited 6 months ago by Simon Denis
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
6 months ago

‘On issues like the ongoing trans controversy, we should expect a very different tone from now on.’
In what way different? Can you clarify please Freddie?

Scott S
Scott S
6 months ago

This is interesting. ‘Getting the old team back’, would be controversial, as cummings is not popular at all. However, it is evidently clear that things started going rapidly downhill after his departure, with the focus changing to Net Zero and Animal Rights. This is the rhetoric of the Liberal elite, not the party of ‘Levelling Up’

Iris C
Iris C
6 months ago
Reply to  Scott S

Wasn’t he, through peak, the instigator of rumour that started the downhill projectory of the Prime Minister’s problems. He seems to me to be a nasty piece of work and should be avoided.

Scott S
Scott S
6 months ago
Reply to  Iris C

Yes, regarding ‘Partygate’, but I think the rot was setting in Re Net Zero, etc before ‘Partgate’.I would say Cummings is not a ‘nice bloke’, and is obviously hard work, but his personality, as far as I am concerned, is not really relevant. He is not heading up the Party, he is the brains, or one of the brains, and this is what is important. However, voting someone into power because you think they are nice, is not the way forward, its policies that count, and the determination to follow them through, which is the important factor for me.. However, this is just my opinion.

Last edited 6 months ago by Scott S
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
6 months ago
Reply to  Scott S

He’s a psychopath, that’s relevant and can’t be ignored.
Johnson demonstrated that.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
6 months ago
Reply to  Scott S

Ha! This guy must be smoking something if he thinks Cummings might ever come back.
Who would trust him with anything? You might as well just hand him the knives to stick in your back.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
6 months ago

The sooner Dom is back inside the tent, the sooner various persons feet will start to dry!

Matt M
Matt M
6 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

It makes me wonder whether DC managing to replace Sajid Javid with Rishi two years ago today was the start of this plan. Too much of a stretch?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
6 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Until Dom ‘Freddie Kruger’ Cummings starts slashing the tent into pieces, then they’ll get wet again.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
6 months ago

I voted (indirectly) for Dominic Cummings. I certainly didn’t vote for bloody Carrie.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
6 months ago

What an unholy mess has evidently been brewing in No10 over the last 2 years. Toxic Dom seeing himself as puppet master from the outset, dividing loyalties and seeding paranoia. It is quite shocking how much damage the supposed ‘architect’ of Brexit is prepared to inflict to satisfy his grandiose ambitions and equally shocking how many are still prepared to dance to his tune. All these ostensibly brilliant minds, including Mirza, and no sense of common purpose or joint endeavour. Not a team player amongst them but every man for himself is the general impression.