Boris Johnson 'Stands By' Jimmy Savile Smear, Downing Street Says

The prime minister been accused of making "false and baseless slurs" over jibe at Keir Starmer.
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Boris Johnson made the accusation in fiery Commons clashes with the Labour leader
Boris Johnson made the accusation in fiery Commons clashes with the Labour leader
UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor via PA Media

Boris Johnson “stands by” his false claim that Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile, according to Downing Street.

The prime minister provoked fury by deploying the smear during fiery Commons clashes with the Labour leader, a former Director of Public Prosecutions.

During a debate on Sue Gray’s report into the partygate scandal, the PM said Starmer “used his time [as DPP] prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can see”.

Hitting back at the false accusation on Tuesday, the Labour leader said this claim is a “ridiculous slur peddled by right-wing trolls”.

He said he could see “disgust” in the faces of the Tory MPs behind Johnson when he “debased himself” by referring to the notorious sex offender.

Starmer continued: “They knew he was sinking so low with that slur. It’s obviously not true. But he does it because he doesn’t understand honesty and integrity.”

Asked about the row at a briefing for political journalists, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister stands by what he said in the House. I don’t have anything to add beyond what the prime minister said.”

On Radio Four’s Today programme earlier, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said Johnson’s comments were “part of the cut and thrust of parliamentary debates”, but refused to repeat them himself.

He said: “I’m certainly not repeating it. I don’t have the facts to justify that.”

Asked to rule on whether Johnson’s remarks had broken Parliamentary rules, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: “Procedurally, nothing disorderly occurred, but such allegations should not be made lightly, especially in view of the guidance in [parliamentary rule book] Erskine May about good temper, moderation being the characteristics of a parliamentary debate.

“While they may not have been disorderly, I am far from satisfied that the comments in question were appropriate on this occasion. I want to see more compassionate, reasonable politics in this House and these sort of comments can only inflame opinions and generate disregard for this House.

“I want a nicer parliament, and the only way we can get a nicer parliament is being more honourable in the debates that we have. Let us show each other respect as well as tolerance going forward.”

Former Tory cabinet minister Julian Smith who previously worked in Johnson’s government also weighed into the debate on Tuesday, and said it was an indefensible accusation to make.

He tweeted: “It should be withdrawn. False and baseless personal slurs are dangerous, corrode trust and can’t just be accepted as part of the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate.”

The fact-checking charity Full Fact also pointed out that Starmer may have been head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when it was decided Savile would not be prosecuted, he was not the lawyer reviewing the case.

The charity adds: “An official investigation commissioned later by Starmer criticised both prosecutors and police for their handling of the allegations.”

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