UK: Johnson urged to apologise after Starmer mobbed by protesters | News
Some MPs say the Labour leader was mobbed after Johnson accused him of failing to prosecute sex offender Jimmy Savile.
British legislators have urged Boris Johnson to apologise to Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, after he was hounded by a group of angry protesters in an incident some say was triggered by the prime minister’s comments.
Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Johnson accused Starmer of having failed to prosecute Jimmy Saville, one of the United Kingdom’s most notorious sex offenders, during his time as director of public prosecutions.
On Monday, Starmer, 59, who had been attending an anti-COVID-19 vaccination demonstration near Parliament, was surrounded by a crowd.
Before being escorted into a police car, some of the protesters shouted “Traitor!” and “Were you protecting Jimmy Savile?” at him.
In a statement, police said that two people had been arrested after a traffic cone was thrown at an officer.
David Lammy, Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman who was with Starmer during the incident and had to be escorted by the police back into Parliament, tweeted: “No surprise the conspiracy theorist thugs who harassed @Keir_Starmer & I repeated slurs we heard from @BorisJohnson last week at the despatch box.”
The controversy comes as Johnson is under pressure to resign in the face of a series of scandals, including alcohol-fuelled parties at his Downing Street office and residence during coronavirus lockdowns.
No surprise the conspiracy theorist thugs who harassed @Keir_Starmer & I repeated slurs we heard from @BorisJohnson last week at the despatch box.
Intimidation, harassment and lies have no place in our democracy. And they won’t ever stop me doing my job. pic.twitter.com/Io4JBJoHfQ
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) February 7, 2022
Criticism came also from the Conservative Party. Member of Parliament Sir Roger Gale suggested on Twitter that such slurs were a “direct result of the deliberately careless use of language in the Chamber”.
Grim scenes outside Parliament today and disgraceful treatment of Sir Keir Starmer. All Members of Parliament have a right to go about our lawful business without intimidation. This, I fear, is the direct result of the deliberately careless use of language in the Chamber.
— Sir Roger Gale MP (@SirRogerGale) February 7, 2022
Conservative legislator Julian Smith pushed his criticism further, saying that Johnson’s comments needed to be fully withdrawn.
“What happened to Keir Starmer tonight outside parliament is appalling,” Smith said on Twitter. “It is really important for our democracy & for his security that the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full.”
What happened to Keir Starmer tonight outside parliament is appalling. It is really important for our democracy & for his security that the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full.
— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) February 7, 2022
The calls came as Johnson tried to clarify his comments.
He has declined to apologise or withdraw the remarks.
Such refusal led to his head of policy Munira Mirza, one of his closest aides, quitting her job last Thursday. She called the remarks an “inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse”.
Responding to Monday’s incident, Johnson said on Twitter, “The behaviour directed at the Leader of the Opposition tonight is absolutely disgraceful. All forms of harassment of our elected representatives are completely unacceptable.”
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.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 7, 2022
Some politicians, such as Conservative Party’s Chris Philp, said Johnson is not to blame.
“I don’t think you can point to what the prime minister said as the cause of that – you certainly can’t blame him,” Philp told Sky. “I don’t think it in any way justified or provoked or incited the terrible and totally unacceptable harassment and intimidation of the leader of the opposition.”