Munira Mirza
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Munira Mirza

Munira Mirza
Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit

24 July 2019
Boris Johnson
James Marshall

Munira Mirza (born 1978) is Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, a post to which she was appointed by incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 24 July 2019.[1] She previously worked under Johnson as Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture when he was Mayor of London.

Early life and education

Mirza's family came to the UK from Pakistan.[2][3] Her father worked in a factory and her mother was a housewife, did some part-time Urdu teaching and voluntary work and was very active in the community.[4] They prized education above all else.[5]

Mirza was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester, North West England and had two older brothers and an older sister.[6] She went to Breeze Hill School until 16, then moved to Oldham Sixth Form College for her A-levels.[7] She was the only pupil in her 6th form to gain a place at Oxford University,[8], studying English literature at Mansfield College, and graduating in 1999. She then completed an MA in social research in 2004 and a PhD in sociology in 2009, both at the University of Kent.[9][10][11][12]


Mirza was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, a small Trotskyist group that dissolved in 1997.[13][14] She contributed to its magazine, Living Marxism, which was dissolved after losing a libel case to ITN over the Bosnian genocide. The magazine was replaced by the Spiked website, for which she has written articles[15]. Many of Mirza's Revolutionary Communist Party colleagues became influential in Conservative Party Eurosceptic circles after the dissolution of their party, while remaining closely associated with each other's endeavours.[16]

Mirza has said that "I became a bit of a 'museums junkie' in my early twenties. My first job in the arts sector was at the Royal Society of Arts, where I became especially interested in the politics of culture - why we value what we do, how to make the arts more accessible, and why public interest in the arts matters. From there, I started a PhD in Sociology, looking particularly at the politics of culture."[17] She has said "I take Culture in its very broad sense, not just in the tradition of fine arts but, the creative and cultural industries: film, photography, design, architecture. In all these areas, London excels."[18] She worked briefly at the Tate Museum.[19]

Mirza worked as Development Director for the conservative think-tank Policy Exchange.[20] While she was there she edited a collection of essays, Culture Vultures: Is UK Arts Policy Damaging the Arts?, which challenged the government's efforts to promote socially inclusive arts.[21][22] and wrote Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism.[23]

In December 2009 she appeared in the BBC Radio 4 programme Great Lives, nominating the political philosopher Hannah Arendt.[24]

From 2008-2016 Mirza worked for the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson,[25] initially as Cultural Adviser, and Director of Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries. From 2012 she was one of six Deputy Mayors, being Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture.[26][27] She advised the Mayor on priorities for culture and education and led the delivery of key programmes, including £40m Education and Youth investment in London.[28] In 2014 Mirza said that she was not a Conservative.[29][30]

Her book The Politics of Culture: The Case for Universalism was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.[31] In it she argued that consensus about the value of cultural diversity had bred ambivalence.[32]

In 2016 Mirza was a vocal advocate of Brexit, a stance which, in cultural circles, she later described as "the new being gay".[33] She emphasised the democratic referendum result.[34]

In 2018 Mirza was mentioned by the New Statesman as a possible Conservative Party candidate for the 2020 London Mayoral election.[35]

In January 2019 she joined King's College London as Executive Director of Culture, leading the institution's cultural strategy together with oversight of the Science Gallery London at Guy's Campus.[36]

On 24 July 2019 Mirza was appointed Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, replacing James Marshall.[1] Mirza has drafted policy[37] including financial policy.[38][39]

Arts involvements

Mirza is a member of Arts Council England, London Area Council; the Royal College of Music Council; and the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art.[40] Mirza has a record of advocating for public investment in the arts, but has also warned that organisations will need to become "more entrepreneurial and look for ways to stretch their resources", including through corporate sponsorship.[41]


Mirza has argued that "it seems that a lot of people in politics think it's a good idea to exaggerate the problem of racism", that Theresa May's proposed racial disparities audit for public services set the scene for "another bout of political self-flagellation regarding the subject of race in Britain", and that "accusations of institutional racism -- and their official endorsement -- have corroded BAME communities' trust in public services, thereby making things worse."[42][43] On Johnson's comment likening women in burqas to letterboxes, she said "There are many people in this country who are uncomfortable about the burqa. When people argue we should use more sensitive language what they are really saying is let's not be critical at all, let's not offend, let's not criticise this practice because it upsets Muslims."[44][45]


Mirza is married to Dougie Smith, who was a former No. 10 colleague and speechwriter for David Cameron.[46] She had a son in 2013.[47]


  1. ^ a b "Sky Executive Among Johnson's First Appointments". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019.
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  9. ^ Akbhor, Rehubia (17 June 2014). "London's deputy mayor pays tribute to teachers at Oldham Sixth Form College". Manchester Evening News.
  10. ^ Jury, Louise (14 May 2008). "It's time for a rethink on the fourth plinth, says Mayor's new culture and arts director". Evening Standard.
  11. ^ King's People - Munira Mirza. King's College London.
  12. ^ "Munira Mirza". Mayor of London: Mayoral Team. Greater London Authority. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  13. ^ Wooldridge, Adrian (22 August 2019). "The Downing Street Policy Unit, Boris Johnson's brain". The Economist. London. Retrieved 2019. The head of the Policy Unit, Munira Mirza, is a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, a Trotskyite groupuscule, and enthusiastic contributor to its house organ, Living Marxism.
  14. ^ Bowie, Jess (17 July 2014). "London Calling: Munira Mirza interview". totalpolitics. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ "Spiked- M Mirza's articles". Spiked online. Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ Turner, Jenny. "Who Are They? Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2019.
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  20. ^ "Munira Mirza". Policy Exchange. Retrieved 2012.
  21. ^ "Culture Vultures: Is UK Arts Policy Damaging the Arts?". Policy Exchange. 19 January 2006. Retrieved 2012.
  22. ^ "New Report Critical of Money Spent on "Diversity" Arts". AIM Magazine. Asians in Media. 30 January 2006. Retrieved 2012.
  23. ^ "Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism". Policy Exchange. 29 January 2007. Retrieved 2012.
  24. ^ "Great Lives". RadioListings. Retrieved 2012.
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  27. ^ "Profile: Munira Mirza". The Guardian. London. 19 May 2008. Retrieved 2012.
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  31. ^ "The Politics of Culture". Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved 2012.
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  35. ^ "Sadiq Khan's Conservative Opponents Can't Win. Which Means They Can't Lose Either". New Statesman.
  36. ^ "Munira Mirza Joins King's as Executive Director Culture". King's College London. Retrieved 2018.
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