Boris Johnson refuses to withdraw controversial Savile jibe at Keir Starmer

2 February 2022, 14:01 | Updated: 2 February 2022, 14:17

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson has refused to retract his false accusation that Labour leader Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile during his time as director of public prosecutions.

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However, during Prime Minister's Questions, Sir Keir accused the PM of using the "conspiracy theories of violent fascists" to score political points.

He said: "[The Tory party] 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."

But Mr Johnson stood firm and refused to withdraw his comments.

He hit back saying he was told that "in 2013, he apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch. I think that was the right thing to do".

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It comes after a Savile victim told LBC they were "absolutely furious" about Mr Johnson's "flippant" remarks.

He said in the Commons on Monday: "Instead this leader of the opposition - a former director of public prosecution who used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can see - he chose to use this moment to continually pre-judge a police inquiry."

The woman, known as Miss A, said: "I thought this was a real cheap political issue against Keir Starmer and it was absolutely unnecessary.

"I was completely outraged by it – I was very upset by it – and I know other Savile victims still suffer life-long trauma from it as I do."

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood also condemned the PM's Savile comments, confirming earlier on Wednesday that he would be submitting a letter of no confidence as a result of the ongoing partygate scandal.

"Who advised the Prime Minister to say this?" Mr Ellwood told Sky.

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

However, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said Mr Johnson had nothing to apologise for.

"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," Mr Gove said.

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."

Jimmy Savile, who is now thought to have been one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders, died in 2011.
Jimmy Savile, who is now thought to have been one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders, died in 2011. Picture: Alamy

Sir Keir was director of public prosecutions from 2008 to 2013, however, he was not thought to have been involved in decisions relating to sexual offence allegations against disgraced entertainer Savile.

He acknowledged following a review of the case that Savile could have been prosecuted in 2009 - two years before he died - had police taken victims more seriously.

Sir Keir said at the time: "I would like to take the opportunity to apologise for the shortcomings in the part played by the CPS in these cases.

"If this report and my apology are to serve their full purpose, then this must be seen as a watershed moment."