Munira Mirza: Boris Johnson’s “powerful nonsense detector” | Boris Johnson
Ohails a number of people who worked alongside Munira Mirza rent it Intellect and character, it seemed ironic that after leading No. 10’s efforts to fuel culture war issues, she had finally quit in protest at low politics.
Mirza, who resigned over Boris Johnson’s false claim that Keir Starmer had withheld prosecution attempts against Jimmy Savile, was responsible for the much-criticized Downing Street report on racial disparities, which downplayed structural factors.
She also defended Johnson’s earlier statements, calling the reaction to his 2018 column that compared Muslim women in burkas to mailboxes and bank robbers “hysteria”.
What is certain is that his loss will be significant. Mirza worked with Johnson for 14 years, including his eight years as Mayor of London. She started as an arts councilor and became his deputy mayor for education and culture.
Although she was widely associated in No. 10 with culture war issues, much like her husband and fellow No. 10 adviser Dougie Smith, Mirza was seen as liked by Johnson because her opinions were not easily defined and could be unexpected, with the Prime Minister praising her as a “powerful detector of nonsense”.
In a 2020 profile de Mirza, Andrew Gimson, the prime minister’s biographer, said she and Johnson were not easily pigeonholed by ideology.
He said: “Of the two, she is the more rigorous and scientific, he the more inclined to rely on instinct and intuition. But there is an affinity between them, especially as she also possesses, in the words of one senior minister, “a wonderful wasp-like sense of humor that is suited to that of the prime minister.”
His political career has certainly been long. Born in Oldham in 1978 to parents who came to the UK from Pakistan, she attended her local comprehensive school and Oldham Sixth Form College before studying English at Mansfield College, Oxford.
Unlike Johnson, who was president of the Oxford Union and involved in conservative politics, Mirza was a radical student, becoming a member of the revolutionary communist party, contributing to its Living Marxism magazine.
But she was frustrated by what she saw as the narrow-mindedness of the left and embarked on a journey across the political spectrum that led to her being hired by Policy Exchange, the think tank modernizing Tory, and eventually took her to Downing Street.
One of his most vocal views has been to challenge the idea that the challenges facing black and minority ethnic people in the UK are the result of structural racism.
In 2018, she accused then universities minister Sam Gyimah of a ‘cynical hot potato game’ after she criticized Oxbridge for not admitting more black students rather than investigating the root causes of the disparity.
And she has repeatedly criticized Labor MP David Lammy’s report on the justice system, commissioned by Theresa May. Viewing the issue in terms of institutional racism “only blurs the reality of what’s going on and could ultimately lead to worse outcomes for ethnic minorities,” Mirza said in an article for the nonconformist website Spiked.