What did Boris Johnson say about Jimmy Savile? PM’s slur against Keir Starmer explained - what really happened

Keir Starmer led the CPS when it did not charge Jimmy Savile - but he was not directly responsible for the decision

Boris Johnson is resisting fresh demands to apologise for the Jimmy Savile smear he levelled at Sir Keir Starmer after police had to rescue the Labour leader from a mob.

Sir Keir was bundled into a police car for protection near Parliament on 7 February as he faced baseless allegations of “protecting paedophiles” from protesters shouting about Savile.

At least six Conservatives, including a former Cabinet minister, joined MPs from across the political spectrum in linking the harassment to the baseless claim which Mr Johnson made while under pressure over the partygate scandal.

Last week Mr Johnson falsely claimed Sir Keir “used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile” while Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

So, what did Boris Johnson say about Jimmy Savile was so controversial? Here’s what you need to know.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks during a visit the Blackpool Transport Depot on 3 February (image: by Peter Byrne/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

When did Boris Johnson make the remarks about Jimmy Savile? 

Mr Johnson made the comments about Jimmy Savile on 1 February when he lashed out at the Labour leader, a former director of public prosecutions (DPP) in 2013, during Commons clashes about the report on alleged lockdown-busting parties in No 10.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson pointed to the fact that Sir Keir Starmer apologised in his former role as DDP, for the Crown Prosecution Service having failed to bring Savile to justice four years earlier.

Jimmy Savile at Buckingham Palace in 1972. (Photo by Leslie Lee/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As he battled to defend himself from the partygate row, Mr Johnson claimed Sir Keir “used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”.

Questioned about the comments on Tuesday, Sir Lindsay said “procedurally nothing disorderly occurred but such allegations should not be made lightly”.

He added: “While they may not have been disorderly, I am far from satisfied that the comments in question were appropriate on this occasion.

What role did Keir Starmer have in the Jimmy Savile case?

There is no evidence that Sir Keir had any personal role in the failure to prosecute the man who was one of Britain’s most egregious sex offenders before his death in 2011.

The Labour leader accused Mr Johnson of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points”.

Sir Keir told Sky News: “It is a ridiculous slur peddled by right-wing trolls… this is where I saw the faces of the Conservative MPs, the disgust on their faces that their Prime Minister was debasing himself by sinking so low in the Chamber was clear.

“They knew that he was going so low with that slur, with that lie – he had been advised not to do it because it’s obviously not true, but he does it because he doesn’t understand what honesty and integrity means.”

Then-director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer pictured at a CPS press conference in 2009 (image: Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In 2020, fact checking charity Full Fact looked into the claim that Sir Keir had stopped Savile being charged in 2009.

Full Fact said Sir Keir was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when the decision not to prosecute Savile was made on the grounds of “insufficient evidence”, adding: “The allegations against Savile were dealt with by local police and a reviewing lawyer for the CPS.

“A later investigation criticised the actions of both the CPS and the police in their handling of the situation.

“It did not suggest that Mr Starmer was personally involved in the decisions made.”

Savile died in 2011 aged 84 having never been brought to justice for his crimes.

He is now believed to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.

Has the prime minister backtracked over his comments?

Mr Johnson, in an interview on 3 February, claimed he had not been talking about Sir Keir’s “personal record” when he was DPP.

Speaking to broadcasters in Blackpool, the Prime Minister 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.

“I really do want to clarify that because it is important.”

Coming under renewed criticism, Mr Johnson tweeted on 7 February that the “behaviour directed” at the Labour leader was “absolutely disgraceful” but did not address the nature of the abuse.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon compared Mr Johnson to former US president Donald Trump spreading “fake news” after the Savile conspiracy theory is said to have been spread by supporters of the far-right.

Have any of Jimmy Savile’s victims spoken out? 

Lawyer Richard Scorer, who represented many of Savile’s victims, said: “Victims of Savile I represented and have spoken with are all disgusted by Boris Johnson’s comments.

“They’ve told me they want him to withdraw them and apologise. I urge Johnson to do that right away.

“Weaponising their suffering to get out of a political hole is disgraceful.”

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.