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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Alamy Stock Photo Boris Johnson in the House of Commons
# westminster
Johnson refuses to withdraw accusation that Labour leader failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile
Keir Starmer said the UK Prime Minister is “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points”.

BORIS JOHNSON HAS refused to withdraw his contentious claim that Labour leader Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

Earlier this week, when the UK Prime Minister faced scrutiny in the House of Commons after the publication of the Sue Gray report, he accused Starmer of having not prosecuted Jimmy Savile, who was accused of sexual offences.

During Prime Minister’s Questions today, Starmer accused Johnson of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points”.

In response, Johnson defended his comments made on Monday following the publication of the report on lockdown parties in Downing Street.

“I don’t want to make heavy weather of this but I am informed that in 2013 he apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch. That was the right thing to do,” Johnson said.

Johnson had faced growing calls from senior Conservatives to withdraw the widely criticised claim.

In 2020, fact checking charity Full Fact looked into the claim that Starmer had stopped Savile being charged in 2009.

It said Starmer was head of the CPS when the decision not to prosecute Savile was made on the grounds of “insufficient evidence”, adding: “The allegations against Savile were dealt with by local police and a reviewing lawyer for the CPS.

“A later investigation criticised the actions of both the CPS and the police in their handling of the situation.

“It did not suggest that Starmer was personally involved in the decisions made.”

Savile died in 2011 aged 84.

In comments directed to Tory benches, Starmer said: “Theirs is the party of Winston Churchill. Our parties stood together as we defeated fascism in Europe.

“Now their leader stands in the House of Commons parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points. He knows exactly what he is doing. It is time to restore some dignity.” 

Conservative criticism

Earlier, former minister Tobias Ellwood became the latest senior Conservative figure to criticise the Prime Minister’s comments.

Speaking on Sky News, he said: “Who advised the Prime Minister to say this?

“We’re better than this, we must seek to improve our standards and rise above where we are today.”

Simon Hoare, the Conservative chair of the Commons Northern Ireland committee, tweeted: “The Jimmy Savile false allegation should be withdrawn.”

On Tuesday, Charles Walker, the vice chair of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, told Channel 4 News that the comment had been a “mistake” and that Johnson should apologise.

“I wish he hadn’t done it. I suspect he wishes he hadn’t done it,” he said.

“I think it might have been at the time in the heat of battle, because it gets very heated on the floor of the House. It’s very febrile. But I think it was a mistake.

“Of course he should withdraw it. It didn’t add to the overall debate. It’s really good though to be able to apologise. I think you never get marked down for an apology. It’s not a sign of weakness.”

However, Communities Secretary Michael Gove said the Prime Minister had nothing to apologise for.

“I think this is a uniquely sensitive issue and it does need to be handled with care, and I listen with enormous respect to those who act for victims of the actions of a terrible, terrible criminal,” he told Sky News.

“But – and it’s not a subject that I want to dwell on because it is uniquely sensitive – it is the case that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) apologised for the handling of this case and what happened in 2009, and I think we should acknowledge that an apology was given at the time and respect that.”

He added: “Keir Starmer acknowledged that mistakes had been made by the organisation of which he was head, to his credit. He was very clear about those mistakes.”

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