From Munira Mizra To Malala: The Five Women Who Have Shaped Boris Johnson’s Life

To mark International Women’s Day, Grazia asked the Prime Minister to nominate the five women who have influenced and inspired him the most... and one of them just quit her job over his latest controversial comment.

Boris Johnson Munira Mizra

by Phoebe Parke |

Two years ago in the midst of Brexit, a survey of our readers told us that you were talking about – and interested in – politics more than ever before.

We started a regular Westminster column to address the matter, asking a different female MP each week to discuss issues impacting British women today. But, ultimately, the person with the most significant ability to shape our future is the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

So to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, Grazia asked the Prime Minister to nominate the five women who have influenced and inspired him the most. Do his answers reveal the psyche of the man leading our country? Read on – we would love to hear your views…

The first woman the Prime Minister nominated, Malala, was someone he met in 2014 when he was Mayor of London. ‘She was so brave, so right and so luminously idealistic that I could see I was in the presence of a modern-day saint,’ Johnson wrote in Grazia of the schoolgirl who defied the Taliban and campaigned for the right for girls to go to school.

The second, Munira Mirza, was another woman from his mayoral days – Mirza was the deputy Mayor for Culture and recently quit her role as Director of the Policy Unit in Number 10 after Johnson attempted to associate Keir Starmer with the failure to prosecute the child abuser Jimmy Savile.

'Munira Mirza and I started working together 12 years ago, and I rapidly realised that she was extraordinary,' the Prime Minister wrote. 'She is young, Asian, state-educated and of Oldham Muslim origins.

'She has a background in the arts and wrote a PhD on some cultural theme before becoming, in 2008, London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture – a notoriously prickly world. She soon won them over. The arts world trusts and likes her partly because – in a way that simply eludes me – Munira is capable of being hip, cool, groovy and generally on trend,' he praised her.

'Yet, I don’t think I have ever met anyone so efficient, and with such a horror of wasting taxpayers’ money. She hates cant; she hates frippery; she hates political correctness. She has, all told, the most powerful nonsense-detector I have ever seen. That is why I am so proud today that she is Director of the Policy unit in Number 10,' he said at the time.

'This is a Government that must be focused on delivery. We are on a mission to deliver huge improvements in health care – 40 new hospitals, 50,000 more nurses. We are here to fight crime, with 20,000 more police. We are here to defeat homelessness with a vast and beautiful programme of home ownership. To do all this we need a head of policy sharp and ruthless enough to take on the vested interests. We need someone to crack the knout and set the pace – and that person is Munira.'

The third is his grandmother, known to her grandchildren as ‘Granny Butter’. She was an Oxford graduate who lived on a rain-lashed Exmoor hill farm – yet for her ‘the sun was always shining… and everything was pretty well marvellous.’

The fourth, Johnson described as a proto-Brexiteer: Boudicca. ‘What a woman…. The Romans have just beaten her up, raped her daughters and seized her kingdom. And what does she do? She attacks.’

And the fifth? Well, the Prime Minister appeared to deliberate on this one… could it be the Queen? Or the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher? No – instead, he chose a British artist who ‘wrote what is surely one of the world’s greatest ever pop songs’: Kate Bush.


Whats Up In Westminster - Grazia

What's Up In Westminster
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Labour MP Jess Phillips, known for her tenacity and unflinching speeches.

What's Up In Westminster
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Shadow Women and Equalities Minster, Dawn Butler, explains why Boris Johnson could learn a thing or two this Black History Month.

Whats Up In Westminster
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Labour's Harriet Harman, the longest-serving female MP, reveals her frustration with both the fight for equality and, of course, Brexit

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Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott on how Westminster feels like a school playground right now, and why young people need better sex education

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Tory leadership hopeful Esther Mcvey tells us why she wants to lead the country, despite the potential pitfalls

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MP Tulip Siddiq, 36, made history when she delayed her C-section to vote on Brexit. She tells Gaby Hinsliff about having no maternity leave, balancing constituents' and kids' needs and trying to encourage more women into politics

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It's not right that women in this country can still go to prison for terminating a pregnancy, says Labour MP Diana Johnson

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Journalist Rachel Johnson wants to be our next Member of the European Parliament - and unlike her famous brother, she's anti-Brexit

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The Labour MP and Shadow Business Secretary urges new action to tackle the climate crises

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That's why Labour MP Jess Phillips is tackling domestic violence legislation this week - even amidst the chaos of Brexit

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Luciana Berger, Independent MP, is worried that despite the warm words, mental health care is still not being taken seriously

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Newly Independent (formerly Conservative) MP Sarah Wollaston talks about stalking, second referendum and... riding her tandem

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Bethnal Green MP Rushanara Ali is fighting to make housing safer, and enters the debate about whether ISIS brides should be allowed to return to the UK.

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Heidi Allen, Lib Dem MP for South Cambridgeshire, is determined to reform Universal Credit and speak up for people whose voices can't be heard.

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