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London

Police step in as Labour leader Keir Starmer targeted by mob near UK Parliament

The Labour leader faced baseless allegations of “protecting paedophiles” after the Prime Minister used a widely criticised smear.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Feb 2022

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has come under fresh pressure over the Jimmy Savile smear he aimed at Keir Starmer last week, after the Labour leader had to be rescued by police from a mob near Westminster.

Police had to bundle Starmer into a car this evening after a mob shouting “traitor” ambushed him near the Houses of Parliament.

Officers stepped in to protect the British opposition leader as the group – some protesting about Covid restrictions – followed him and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy from outside Scotland Yard.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and a number of other Tory MPs have said that Johnson must withdraw the Savile slur for the sake of Starmer’s security in the wake of the incident.

Boris Johnson has tweeted that the “behaviour directed” at the Labour leader was “absolutely disgraceful” but did not address the nature of the abuse.

Footage posted to social media showed Piers Corbyn, the Covid-19 conspiracy theorist brother of former Labour leader Jeremy, addressing the crowd before the incident and later leading chants of “resist, defy, do not comply”.

The video showed Starmer, surrounded by police, being followed down the street while being targeted with shouts of “why aren’t you opposing?” and “traitor”.

At least one person was heard repeatedly shouting about “protecting paedophiles”.

“Why did you go after Julian Assange, why did you go after journalists?” one man shouted.

It was understood Starmer was not harmed during the incident.

After he was taken to safety, an officer was called a “pathetic little thug” during angry exchanges.

Protesters were seen displaying signs opposing mandatory vaccination and the use of restrictions to prevent Covid-19 deaths.

Savile remark

Earlier today, Starmer said it is “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 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 today, Starmer 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 Johnson over the remarks about Savile.

Starmer said the culture in No 10 would only change when “the person at the top changes” as he reiterated his call for 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, Starmer 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.

“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 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.

Starmer 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 is believed to have been one of Britain’s most egregious sex offenders before his death in 2011.

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

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, Starmer said the furore surrounding claims of lockdown breaches in No 10 had distracted the UK 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 British 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.

A number of Tory MPs have come out this evening to criticise the incident, including the former Secretary of Northern Ireland, Julian Smith.

Smith tweeted: “What happened to Keir Starmer tonight outside parliament is appalling.

It is really important for our democracy & for his security that the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who chairs the Commons Committee on Standards, said: “This is appalling. People were shouting all sorts at Keir, including ‘Jimmy Savile’.

This is what happens when a Prime Minister descends into the gutter and recycles lies from hard-right conspiracy theorists. Political poison has an effect. Johnson has no moral compass.

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