Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

Boris Johnson has refused to apologize over his claim that Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute the pedophile Jimmy Savile, in spite of cross-party outrage at the mobbing of the Labor leader at Westminster.

Starmer had to be bundled into a police car on Monday evening as a crowd jeered at him, including shouts of “paedophile” and “Jimmy Savile”, as well as protests about Covid measures.

The incident prompted Tory and Labor MPs to demand a full apology from Johnson, with claims the prime minister was using “Trump-style” rhetoric that was dragging British politics into a dangerous place.

But on Tuesday Johnson’s allies claimed it was unreasonable to link the protests with Johnson’s comments last week, when he said Starmer spent “most of his time” as director of public prosecutions failing to prosecute Savile.

The Labor leader was not directly involved in the case, as Johnson later admittedbut a government official told the BBC that the prime minister would not apologize: “He’s got other stuff to get on with today.”

Johnson’s defiance will infuriate some Tory MPs along with the Labor opposition, and the issue is again likely to dominate prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

The prime minister has vowed to “reset” his operation, but his new advisers – including new communications chief Guto Harri – appear to be in no mood for backing down in the row over the “Savile slur”.

Johnson on Monday condemned the “absolutely disgraceful” behavior of the mob, but his supporters insisted it was unreasonable to blame their behavior on the prime minister.

Around half a dozen Tory MPs have demanded a full apology, with cabinet ministers deeply uneasy about Johnson’s tactics in recent days, fuelling concerns about his leadership.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, last week said he would not have made the Savile allegations and Sajid Javid, health secretary, praised Starmer’s role as head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

In spite of the Conservative unease, no new Tory MP has publicly announced in recent days that they have submitted a letter demanding a no-confidence vote in Johnson.

A total of 54 such letters are required to trigger a vote; around 15 Tory MPs have so far publicly called for Johnson to resign and Tory insiders guess that as many as 30-40 letters may have been submitted.

However, the Commons rises for its half term break on Thursday, offering the prospect of a short respite for Johnson. In the meantime he is expected to complete the overhaul of his Number 10 and political operation.

Starmer has claimed that Johnson dredged up his claim about the Jimmy Savile from the dark web, saying he was “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists” for political gain.

Rightwing groups in the US have also alleged that pedophile rings operate at the top of American politics, while Trump regularly made false claims about his opponents.

Tobias Ellwood, Tory chair of the Commons defense committee, tweeted: “We claim to be the Mother of all parliaments. Let’s stop this drift towards a Trumpian style of politics from becoming the norm. We are better than this. ”

Anthony Mangnall, another Tory MP who has urged Johnson to quit, said: “Debate and discourse in this country are essential.” He added: “We are not America.”

Brendan Cox, husband of the murdered former Labor MP Jo Cox, told the BBC that Britain was “a long way” from the culture of political violence seen in the US, but that politicians had to be careful not to go down that road.

“When you throw around accusations of people protecting pedophiles or not moving against pedophiles, it creates a viscerality of debate and a violence of emotional reaction,” he said.

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