What happened to Keir Starmer? Why Labour leader was mobbed - Boris Johnson backlash over Jimmy Savile remark
The Prime Minister last week accused the Labour leader of being responsible for the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile
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A number of Tory MPs have demanded that Boris Johnson apologise for the Jimmy Savile smear against Sir Keir Starmer after police had to rescue the Labour leader from a mob.
Sir Keir was surrounded by a crowd near Parliament as he faced baseless allegations of “protecting paedophiles”, while the crowd also screamed about Savile.
The Labour leader was bundled into a police car for protection.
Several Conservatives, including a former Cabinet minister, joined MPs from across the political spectrum in demanding that Mr Johnson apologise for his smear against Sir Keir.
Mr Johnson had falsely claimed that the Labour leader “used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile” while Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The Prime Minister tweeted that the “behaviour directed” at the Labour leader was “absolutely disgraceful”. However, he did not address the nature of the abuse.
What happened to Sir Keir Starmer?
Police officers were forced to step in and protect the Leader of the Opposition after protesters, some of whom are believed to have been a part of a demonstration against Covid measures, swarmed around him and shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy at around 5pm.
Videos of the incident show Sir Keir and Mr Lammy surrounded by the crowd, who were heckling him with questions and statements such as “traitor”, “why aren’t you opposing?” and “why did you go after Julian Assange, why did you go after journalists?”.
At least one person in the video was heard accusing the Labour of “protecting paedophiles” with references to Jimmy Savile also shouted at the politicians.
There were also shouts of “you should be hung” heard within the video.
It is understood that Sir Keir was unharmed during the incident, however he was forced to be escorted away from the area by police.
After the incident, Mr Lammy tweeted his dismay at the “repeated slurs” the protesters were directing at the pair.
He tweeted: “No surprise the conspiracy theorist thugs who harassed @Keir_Starmer & I repeated slurs we heard from @BorisJohnson last week at the despatch box.
“Intimidation, harassment and lies have no place in our democracy.
“And they won’t ever stop me doing my job.”
He added: “My thanks to @metpoliceuk who helped get me safely back to Parliament.”
Warning: the video below contains very strong language
Police have confirmed that two people were arrested at the scene.
A Metropolitan Police statement said: “Shortly after 5.10pm on Monday, February 7, a man who had been surrounded by a group of protesters near to New Scotland Yard, was taken away from the scene by a police car.
“A man and a woman were arrested at the scene for assault of an emergency worker after a traffic cone was thrown at a police officer.
“They have been taken into custody.”
What has been the reaction to the incident?
The shocking footage has garnered widespread condemnation.
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.”
Mr Bryant’s view was echoed by Dame Angela Eagle, who has accused the Prime Minister of “stoking up the worst internet conspiracy theories.”
The Prime Minister doesn’t have many colleagues on his side either, with former Cabinet minister Julian Smith urging the Prime Minister to withdraw the claim immediately.
He said: “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.”
Former minister Stephen Hammond said he agreed with Mr Smith, as did Robert Largan and Aaron Bell, who were elected in 2019.
Senior Tory Sir Roger Gale urged Mr Johnson to make a Commons apology on Tuesday (8 February) over the abuse.
The MP said he feared it could be the result of Mr Johnson’s “deliberately careless” Savile allegation.
“It has, I’m afraid, played into the hands of some rather unpleasant people,” the MP, first elected in 1983, told the PA news agency.
“I think what he ought to do … is to go to the despatch box tomorrow to condemn the way Keir was treated and apologise.”
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, told the Prime Minister to “apologise please”.
“Let’s stop this drift towards a Trumpian style of politics from becoming the norm,” he added.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also condemned the behaviour of protesters, saying: “All Members of Parliament must be able to go about their lives without fear of threats or intimidation.
“The scenes outside Parliament of people accosting @Keir_Starmer & @DavidLammy were completely unacceptable.
“I am in contact with the police about the incident.”
The Prime Minister himself has given his thoughts about the “disgraceful” incident, however he still did not issue an apology for his claims.
He said: “The behaviour directed at the Leader of the Opposition tonight is absolutely disgraceful. All forms of harassment of our elected representatives are completely unacceptable.
“I thank the police for responding swiftly.”
What did Boris Johnson claim?
Last week, an under-pressure Mr Johnson told Parliament that Sir Keir had “used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile” while the Labour leader served as director of public prosecutions from 2008 until 2013.
His comments received backlash from Labour and Tory MPs.
This included Chancellor Rishi Sunak that he “would not have said it”.
There is no evidence that Sir Keir was personally involved with the failure to prosecute Savile, who is now thought to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.
Mr Johnson has so far refused to issue an apology for the allegation, although he issued a clarification of his comments.
He said: “I want to be very clear about this because a lot of people have got very hot under the collar, and I understand why.
“Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m talking not about the leader of the opposition’s personal record when he was DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions. I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole.”
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