Boris Johnson urged to retract Savile remark after Starmer proteston February 8, 2022 at 5:33 am

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Some Tory MPs suggest the incident is linked to Boris Johnson’s false claim about the Labour leader.

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Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls from some of his own MPs to apologise for making a false claim about Sir Keir Starmer, after protesters surrounded the Labour leader near Parliament.

Some of the mob were heard criticising Sir Keir for backing Covid jabs, but there were cries of “Jimmy Savile”.

At least six Tory MPs later linked the incident to the PM’s incorrect comment that Sir Keir had failed to prosecute serial sex offender Savile.

Mr Johnson condemned the harassment.

In a tweet, he did not address the nature of the abuses, but said the behaviour directed at Sir Keir on Monday afternoon was “absolutely disgraceful”.

However, Julian Smith, a former Northern Ireland secretary under Mr Johnson, said it was important for democracy as well as Sir Keir’s security that “the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full”.

Fellow Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons defence committee, told Mr Johnson to “apologise please”, adding: “Let’s stop this drift towards a Trumpian style of politics from becoming the norm.”

And senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said he feared the “grim scenes” outside Parliament were “the direct result of the deliberately careless use of language in the Chamber”.

Both Mr Ellwood and Mr Gale are among the Conservative MPs who have publicly called on Mr Johnson to resign over parties held at Downing Street during the Covid lockdown.

Videos on social media showed Sir Keir being escorted into the police car on the Victoria Embankment shortly after 17:00 GMT, close to Portcullis House, an office building used by MPs.

Protesters could be heard repeatedly shouting “traitor”, while criticising the Labour leader for supporting Covid vaccinations and not “opposing the government”.

Some protesters were seen holding signs opposing mandatory vaccinations and restrictions to curb the spread of Covid.

Scotland Yard later said a man and a woman were arrested after a traffic cone was thrown at officers.

The Met Police said “a man who had been surrounded by a group of protesters… 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.”

Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

Monday’s incident has reignited the anger inside the Conservative Party at the prime minister’s false claims in Parliament a week ago.

His refusal to apologise, and partial retraction, made some MPs queasy and was the trigger for at least one of them to add their private letter to those already submitted in an effort to oust him.

It’s impossible to say categorically that the protesters had been driven by the prime minister’s comments last week.

But the ugly event has stirred calls again among Tory MPs for the PM to take back his comments completely, and to acknowledge the danger of what he’d said.

There is no sign as I write that No 10 has any intention of doing so.

Read Laura’s blog in full here.


The prime minister made the false remark in Parliament last Monday as he was grilled by MPs over an initial report on Downing Street parties held under Covid restrictions.

He sought to clarify his remarks afterwards, insisting the Labour leader “had nothing to do personally” with the decision not to prosecute Savile when he was director of public prosecutions.

Labour have not yet commented on the incident, but Sir Keir has previously described the claim as “a ridiculous slur, peddled by right-wing trolls”.

When asked earlier on Monday whether he would like to see an apology from the PM, Sir Keir said it was “up to the prime minister how he conducts himself”.

Last week, his former head of policy and longstanding aide, Munira Mirza, cited Mr Johnson’s remark as the reason for her resignation.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who was with Sir Keir at the time, tweeted: “Intimidation, harassment and lies have no place in our democracy.”


Who were the protesters?

Analysis by Shayan Sardarizadeh, BBC Monitoring

Today’s protest in Westminster was an attempt to replicate the “freedom convoy” in Canada’s capital in recent days.

But unlike the protest in Ottawa, the UK rally was small. Familiar faces from anti-vaccine rallies that have been held during the pandemic were in attendance.

The small gathering outside the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police had been relatively quiet up until Sir Keir was surrounded.

Amid shouts of “traitor” and references to Jimmy Savile and paedophiles, the Labour leader was accused by one protester of “ignoring our Magna Carta”.

This a familiar theme used by followers of the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement.

They believe they can opt out of laws – including Covid restrictions – by invoking a clause in Magna Carta – the royal charter of rights signed in 1215.

They have handed fake legal documents to health workers and teachers to try to stop Covid vaccinations and some have even tried to remove Covid patients from intensive care wards, citing non-existent “common law” empowering them to do so.

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