Following the harassment of Labour Party leader Keir Starmer by demonstrators, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pressed on Tuesday to retract an allegation that Starmer had failed to pursue one of the country’s most known child abusers.
The news: After a series of scandals, including disclosures that he and his staff attended Downing Street parties during COVID lockdowns, Johnson, who won a landslide victory in 2019, is facing the gravest crisis of his administration.
- Johnson falsely claimed Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile, a late TV star who assaulted hundreds of children, during his time as Director of Public Prosecutions, as he apologised to parliament for the parties on Jan. 31. (DPP).
What’s going on: On Monday, after an anti-COVID vaccination action, Starmer was encircled by outraged demonstrators.
- Some demonstrators can be heard shouting “Traitor!” and “Were you protecting Jimmy Savile?” at him as he is brought into a police car.
- “It is really important for our democracy and for his security that the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full,” Conservative lawmaker Julian Smith said.
- Roger Gale, a Conservative lawmaker, called Starmer’s treatment “disgraceful”.
- “This, I fear, is the direct result of the deliberately careless use of language in the Chamber,” Gale said.
- As he tries to rebuild his Downing Street team and defends himself against charges from opposition parties that he is unable to govern, the row risks further eroding Johnson’s authority.
What they’re saying: Opposition MPs demanded an apology from Johnson for his statements. On Feb. 3, Johnson amended his comments, claiming he didn’t want to imply that Starmer had failed to pursue one of Britain’s most prominent sex offenders.
- “I don’t think you can point to what the prime minister said as the cause of that – you certainly can’t blame him,” Chris Philp, Britain’s minister for technology and the digital Economy, told Sky.
- “I don’t think it in any way justified or provoked or incited the terrible and totally unacceptable harassment and intimidation of the leader of the opposition,” Philp said.
Munira Mirza, Johnson’s head of policy who had worked with him for 14 years, was not satisfied with his explanation, and she resigned last week. Rishi Sunak, the Finance Minister, has also stated that he would not have made such a remark.