Boris Johnson backs down on Jimmy Savile smear and admits Keir Starmer had ‘nothing to do’ with case

Humiliating climbdown but no apology from prime minister over ‘disgraceful’ slur on Labour leader

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 03 February 2022 15:44
Comments
Boris Johnson refuses to retract Savile smear after being accused of ‘parroting fascists’

Boris Johnson has backed down on his smear linking Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile, admitting the Labour leader had “nothing to do” with decisions on the case.

The prime minister’s humiliating climbdown came after a number of Conservative MPs voiced distaste over his comments, which former home secretary Amber Rudd branded “disgraceful” and “Trumpian”.

Mr Johnson will now come under intense pressure to apologise for his comments, widely seen as an effort to distract attention from allegations he repeatedly breached lockdown rules, in what is known as a “dead cat” strategy.

The incident is certain to increase question marks over his future as PM, with Tory MPs privately saying that his use of the smear had made them more likely to demand a vote on his removal.

Under fierce questioning in the House of Commons after Sue Gray’s finding of a “failure of leadership” over No 10 parties, Mr Johnson lashed out in what appeared to be a pre-planned attempt to divert criticism onto the Labour leader.

In his time as director of public prosecutions, Mr Johnson claimed, Starmer had “spent more time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can make out”.

An official report at the time made clear that Sir Keir played no part in decisions which prevented the prosecution of the paedophile celebrity, but he apologised as DPP on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service.

The slur was cited by senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood yesterday when he announced he was writing a letter of no confidence in Johnson as leader, and a string of other senior Conservatives called on the PM to withdraw his remark.

Starmer himself said that the party once led by Churchill was now helmed by a man “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists”.

Johnson stood by his slur in a newspaper interview and at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

But challenged over the comments during a visit to Blackpool on Thursday, he told TV cameras: “I want to be very clear about this because a lot of people have got very hot under the collar, and I understand why.

“Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m talking not about the Leader of the Opposition’s personal record when he was DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions.

“I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole. I really do want to clarify that because it is important.”

TV presenter Savile was knighted by a previous Conservative administration for his charity work in 1990, but was exposed after his 2011 death as a serial child sex abuser who had preyed on young people over six decades.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in