Boris Johnson quoted from The Lion King, insisting “change is good”, as he sought to keep staff onside after No 10 was rocked by five resignations.
The British prime minister channelled the philosopher monkey Rafiki in the Disney film as he tried to boost morale in a speech to aides on Friday morning.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson acknowledges the “challenging” situation after the resignation of one of his longest-serving advisers, Munira Mirza.
She quit in anger over his use of a false Jimmy Savile smear against Labour leader Keir Starmer, while under pressure over allegations of lockdown breaches in No 10.
Chief of staff Dan Rosenfield followed, as did principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and communications director Jack Doyle, who were all implicated in the partygate scandal.
The exodus continued on Friday when policy adviser Elena Narozanski quit, further adding to the turmoil as Mr Johnson clings onto power.
Speaking to staff in the Cabinet Room as others tuned in on Zoom, the British prime minister said: “As Rafiki in The Lion King says, change is good, and change is necessary even though it’s tough.”
Rafiki’s quote comes from a scene in The Lion King after main character Simba flees his pride following his father’s death, orchestrated by his evil uncle Scar, with the mandrill convincing Simba to return and take his rightful place as king.
Asked if Mr Johnson has seen the film, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t know.”
Mr Johnson was also said to have given his familiar “half-time pep talk” in which he talks about spitting out the “orange peel” and getting back on the “pitch”.
He delivered that same message to his cabinet in September last year after carrying out a ruthless cull of his top team.
Speaking to journalists, his official spokesman said: “The prime minister has acknowledged it’s a challenging time as we go through a period of change but as he reiterated to the whole team today, there is an important job to do, the public expects us to be focused on it, whether it is the situation in Ukraine, recovering from the pandemic or, as the Chancellor was setting out yesterday, on issues such as cost of living.”