Tories turn on Boris Johnson as minister insists PM is not to blame for mob intimidation of Keir Starmer

Tories turn on Boris Johnson as minister insists PM is not to blame for mob intimidation of Keir Starmer
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on February 3, 2022.Jason Cairnduff-WPA Pool/Getty Images
  • More Tory MPs are calling for Boris Johnson to resign over his accusations about Jimmy Savile to Keir Starmer.
  • It comes after Starmer was mobbed by protestors on Monday, some of whom shouted remarks about Savile.

Growing numbers of Conservative MPs are calling on Boris Johnson to withdraw criticism he made against Keir Starmer related to the prosecution of Jimmy Saville after the Labour leader was mobbed by protestors on Monday evening — even while a minister insisted the prime minister had done nothing wrong.

Protesters surrounded Starmer and shouted references to Saville, the late sex offender, before the Labour leader was bundled into a police car for his safety on Monday.

Johnson has refused to apologise for suggesting last week that Starmer had personally failed to prosecute Saville when he was director of public prosecutions, which experts described as a Trumpian far-right slur.

On Tuesday morning, Caroline Nokes, the former immigration minister, said: "Yesterday's hideous scenes outside Parliament serving as an urgent reminder that what is said inside the building reverberates outside."

Technology minister Chris Philp on Tuesday insisted the prime minister's words about Saville could not be linked to the mob intimidation faced by Starmer on Monday because the mob had also been shouting about other topics.


"They also mentioned Julian Assange," he told Sky News. "They mentioned COVID. They mentioned the opposition more generally. So I don't think you can point to what the prime minister said as the cause of that. You certainly can't blame him for the fact that [the] mob were clearly behaving in a totally unacceptable way."

Several other Conservative MPs also criticised the prime minister over Monday evening's incident and his remarks about Saville, including former Chief Whip Julian Smith, Tobias Ellwood, Roger Gale, Stephen Hammond, Anthony Mangnall, Aaron Bell, and Rob Largan.

The incident piles further pressure on the prime minister, who is already facing calls for resignation from a significant minority of his own MPs. Several of those who have criticised the prime minister over the Saville incident have written letters of no-confidence in a bid to force a vote on his leadership.

Julian Smith said: "What happened to Keir Starmer tonight outside parliament is appalling. It is really important for our democracy and for his security that the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full."

David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary who called in January for the prime minister to resign over his handling of the partygate scandal, told LBC Radio on Monday he should "shoulder responsibility" and "apologise unreservedly" to Keir Starmer for the incident.


Several ministers, including Health Secretary Sajid Javid, rushed to condemn the attack, while not conflating it with Johnson's remarks. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has so far not commented.

Sunak last week rebuked the prime minister for his remarks about Saville and said: "I wouldn't have said it myself."

The prime minister himself said on Monday: "The behaviour directed at the Leader of the Opposition tonight is absolutely disgraceful.

"All forms of harassment of our elected representatives are completely unacceptable. I thank the police for responding swiftly."