Jimmy Savile victim ‘furious and upset’ at Boris Johnson’s false slur against Starmer
A victim of Jimmy Savile has criticised Boris Johnson for making a bogus claim that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute the prolific sex offender.
The discredited accusation, made by the prime minister in the House of Commons on Monday, was branded “dangerous and baseless” by one of his own MPs.
One of Savile's victims, identified as Miss A, told LBC: "To have the PM say this, I was furious.
"It was like he was using it as a flippant thing for other people's purposes.
"It triggered all the flashbacks, the memories.
"I can't begin to tell you how upset I was. It was so unnecessary."
Johnson made the false claim during a heated exchange following the release of part of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into Partygate allegations at Downing Street.
Fighting for his political future as opposition MPs and many in his own party called on him to resign, Johnson said Sir Keir had failed to prosecute paedophile Savile while head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
In fact, Sir Keir had not been the reviewing lawyer for the case.
Watch: Boris Johnson's Jimmy Savile comment branded a 'disgrace'
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On Tuesday, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister stands by what he said in the House.”
The spokesman declined to repeat Johnson’s assertion, arguing that it would clash with the principle of civil service impartiality.
Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said on Tuesday that “procedurally nothing disorderly” occurred when Johnson made the allegation, but he told MPs: “I am far from satisfied that the comments in question were appropriate on this occasion.”
The false claim - which the prime minister is able to make under the rules of parliamentary privilege - sparked an immediate backlash and comes at a time when Johnson is trying to appease his own MPs to save his political skin.
Conservative MP Julian Smith, a former government chief whip, tweeted on Tuesday: “The smear made against Keir Starmer relating to Jimmy Saville yesterday is wrong and cannot be defended.
“It should be withdrawn.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.”
During the Commons debate about Sue Gray’s report, which said there were “failures of leadership and judgment” within No 10, Johnson said of Sir Keir: “The report does absolutely nothing to substantiate the tissue of nonsense that he has said. Absolute nonsense.
“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.”
On Tuesday, Sir Keir discussed Johnson’s Savile remark on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“It’s a slur, it’s untrue, it’s desperate from the prime minister,” the Labour leader said. “I was really struck yesterday in the House at how many Conservative MPs were disgusted at that untruth from the despatch box.
“Of course, on our side, people were disgusted. But his own MPs couldn’t believe their prime minister had stooped that low.”
Labour MP Christian Matheson, who raised a point of order in the Commons on Tuesday, said Johnson “was factually wrong”.
He added: “There are many, many victims of that awful, awful person and for him to use that scandal and that tragedy in the way that he did, I felt that was inappropriate, tasteless, but perhaps out of order – and I’d seek your guidance on his use of that awful, awful example.”
Johnson was branded a “disgrace” on Monday by a legal expert.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief Crown prosecutor for the North West, tweeted: “It’s not true. I was there. Keir Starmer had nothing to do with the decisions taken. On the contrary, He supported me in bringing hundreds of child sex abusers to justice.”
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 CPS when the decision not to prosecute Savile was made on the grounds of “insufficient evidence”, before reaching Sir Keir's desk, 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.”
Watch: What Sue Gray’s report did and didn’t tell us
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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.
A 2016 report into his abuse found staff at the BBC missed numerous opportunities to stop him.
Watch: Boris Johnson's Savile claim a 'ridiculous slur', says Keir Starmer