Boris Johnson has doubled down on his false claim that Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.
At PMQs on Wednesday, the Labour leader accused the prime minister of peddling “conspiracy theories of violent fascists”.
Sir Keir said Johnson should behave with more “dignity”, amid clamouring from MPs of all parties for the prime minister to withdraw his discredited comments.
But rather than withdrawing his remarks, Johnson doubled down. “I am told that in 2013, he apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch,” Johnson said.“I think that was the right thing to do.”
‘Restore some dignity’
In comments directed to Tory benches, Sir Keir said: “Theirs is the party of Winston Churchill. Our parties stood together as we defeated fascism in Europe.
“Now their leader stands in the House of Commons parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points. He knows exactly what he is doing. It is time to restore some dignity.”
Earlier, former minister Tobias Ellwood became the latest senior Conservative figure to criticise the prime minister’s comments.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: “Who advised the prime minister to say this?
“We’re better than this, we must seek to improve our standards and rise above where we are today.”
Simon Hoare, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Northern Ireland committee tweeted: “The Jimmy Savile false allegation should be withdrawn.”
On Tuesday, Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, told Channel 4 News that the comment had been a “mistake” and Johnson should apologise.
“I wish he hadn’t done it. I suspect he wishes he hadn’t done it,” he said.
“I think it might have been at the time in the heat of battle, because it gets very heated on the floor of the House. It’s very febrile. But I think it was a mistake.
“Of course he should withdraw it. It didn’t add to the overall debate. It’s really good though to be able to apologise. I think you never get marked down for an apology. It’s not a sign of weakness.”
However, Communities Secretary Michael Gove said the prime minister had nothing to apologise for.
“I think this is a uniquely sensitive issue and it does need to be handled with care, and I listen with enormous respect to those who act for victims of the actions of a terrible, terrible criminal,” he told Sky News.
“But – and it’s not a subject that I want to dwell on because it is uniquely sensitive – it is the case that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) apologised for the handling of this case and what happened in 2009, and I think we should acknowledge that an apology was given at the time and respect that.”
He added: “Keir Starmer acknowledged that mistakes had been made by the organisation of which he was head, to his credit. He was very clear about those mistakes.”