Up to PM whether he apologises over Savile remarks, says Labour leader

Sir Keir Starmer repeated his call for Boris Johnson to resign after a tour of The Prince’s Trust facilities in south London on Monday.

Patrick Daly
Monday 07 February 2022 15:38
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked about the PM’s Jimmy Savile remarks during a visit to The Prince’s Trust in south London (Victoria Jones/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked about the PM’s Jimmy Savile remarks during a visit to The Prince’s Trust in south London (Victoria Jones/PA)

The leader of the opposition said it was “up to the Prime Minister” whether he apologises for looking to personally link his rival to the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile

Boris Johnson last week accused Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of having used his time as head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) going after journalists and “failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”, in comments he later backtracked on.

However, he stopped short of apologising, with one of his most loyal aides, No 10’s head of policy Munira Mirza, quitting over the “scurrilous accusation”.

Following a tour of The Prince’s Trust’s south London facility on Monday, Sir Keir was asked whether the current shake-up of personnel in Downing Street – with a new chief of staff and communications director appointed – could spark an apology from Mr Johnson over the remarks about the notorious paedophile.

Sir Keir said the culture in No 10 would only change when “the person at the top changes” as he reiterated his call for Mr Johnson to stand down, and said it would be up to the Conservative Party leader whether he chooses to apologise over his Savile accusation.

Asked by the PA news agency whether he would like to see the changes result in a personal apology, Sir Keir said: “I’m concerned about standards in politics and acting with integrity.

“So this is not about me – it’s about how we conduct ourselves. It’s up to the Prime Minister how he conducts himself.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Stephen Barclay has been brought into Downing Street as part of Boris Johnson’s shake-up (Steve Parsons/PA)

“But I don’t want to see the lowering of standards, the slurring of anyone in politics.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the sort of politics that I stand for.”

The former director of public prosecutions (DDP) had previously accused Mr Johnson of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points” during a tense exchange in the Commons last week.

Sir Keir apologised while DPP in 2013 for the CPS having failed to bring Savile to justice four years earlier.

But there is no evidence that he had any personal role in the failure to prosecute the man who was one of Britain’s most egregious sex offenders before his death in 2011.

In the wake of Ms Mirza’s resignation and four other aides last week, the Prime Minister has announced a number of new appointments as he looks to recover from the partygate allegations dogging No 10.

Boris Johnson has stopped short of apologising for his remarks about Sir Keir Starmer’s record on Jimmy Savile (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay has been appointed Downing Street chief of staff and former journalist and Johnson ally Guto Harri has become the new communications chief, with further personnel changes expected in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir said the furore surrounding claims of lockdown breaches in No 10 had distracted the Government from attending to voter concerns, particularly worries around the rising cost of living.

He made the comments when asked about reports that up to 100 Tory MPs could be prepared to vote against the Prime Minister in a confidence vote – a figure that would not be high enough to topple him and give him a 12-month reprieve from another internal leadership challenge.

Asked how damaging it could be to leave Mr Johnson in power for another year should he win a potential confidence vote, Sir Keir told PA: “I think there is a growing number of Tory MPs who are discontented with the Prime Minister, that is obvious.

“But I look at this from the perspective of all those millions of people across the country who are suffering the real cost of living crisis, who are worried about their bills – whether it’s the energy bill or the food bill this weekend.

“And I think what they are seeing is a Government of chaos and incompetence, distrust and lack of satisfaction in the Prime Minister.

“And it’s the distraction from the job in hand, which is sorting out the cost of living crisis, that is the vital, most important thing here.”

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