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By Ben Guerin
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Anti-Vaccine Groups Celebrated After Protesters Shouting Savile Slur Mobbed Keir Starmer

4 min read

A number of anti-vaccine groups have praised an incident in which abuse was aimed at Labour leader Keir Starmer by a group of protesters following Boris Johnson's false claims about his involvement with the case surrounding sex offences by Jimmy Savile.

Discussion of the debunked claim about Starmer's role in the decision not to bring charges against child sex offender Savile when he was the head of Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) increased significantly in anti-vaccine groups on Telegram following Boris Johnson's use of the slur during a Commons debate last week. 

A moderator of one group posted that Johnson had "dropped the Jimmy Savile bomb" on Starmer. Others linked Johnson's comment to a debunked conspiracy theory which gained ground in the USA after anonymous accounts claimed Hilary Clinton and other senior politicians were involved in a child abuse ring.

Starmer was accosted on Monday by a group of protesters who shouted abuse about his support for lockdowns and accused him of being a "paedophile" who had protected Savile. Starmer was bundled into a police car to avoid the mob. 

In a video posted in one group following Monday's, a woman who was arrested following the incident said she had repeated the claims during her interview with police.

"I pointed out in my interview that there were people there that were very angry with him because he was the head of the Crown Prosecution that decided there wasn't enough evidence on Jimmy Savile," she said.

The woman also said the encounter would send a "clear message ... that these people can't walk the streets alone anymore".

Almost 3,000 people have already seen the video which was posted late on Monday night with hundreds of other comments about the protests being shared in several groups with thousands of members.

Another video posted by a man taking part in the protest showed others shouting that Starmer had "let off" Savile and screamed at the Labour leader that "paedophile protectors shouldn't be out on the streets".

In one video a protester could be heard directly echoing Johnson's words in the Commons that Starmer had "spent more time prosecuting journalists".

"Why did you go after Julian Assange, why did you go after journalists?," they shouted, referencing Starmer's role as Director of Public Prosecutions in the legal issues faced by the Wikileaks founder.

In response to the videos, several other members of the group posted violent messages, including death threats aimed at Starmer and pictures of a guillotine.

Others falsely claimed Monday's incident had been "staged" by the police and politicians to put pressure on the Prime Minister to retract the comments and to encourage a crackdown on further anti-vaccine protests.

Anti-vaccine protestors have become a frequent sight in Westminster during the pandemic, with a number of different organisations protesting over the vaccine programme and spreading debunked conspiracy theories about Covid-19.

It is believed Starmer was accosted after being spotted by a group protesting against Covid measures as he walked outside Parliament rather than being directly targeted by the group.

Johnson has repeatedly refused to apologise for the remarks, saying instead he wanted to clarify that he didn't believe Starmer was personally responsible for failing to prosecute Savile.

A poll released today by Savanta ComRes found that 69% of people surveyed believed Boris Johnson was responsible for the behaviour of the protestors who targeted Starmer, with 68% saying Johnson should publicly apologise for his comments.

A Downing Street spokesperson said on Tuesday that Johnson had "clarified" his comments because they were "capable of being misconstrued by a tiny minority".

But Labour MP Chris Bryant said Johnson had employed the "Donald Trump playbook" by raising the commonly shared conspiracy theory that Starmer was implicated in the decision not to bring charges against Savile.

"This is despicable. It's deliberate," Bryant said. "It's not accidental, it's an attempt to incite a mob either online or physically in person. It's not how we do politics in this country."

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle condemned the abuse of Starmer, saying Johnson's comments "only inflame opinions and generate disregard for the house and it is not acceptable".

He added: "Our words have consequences. And we should always be mindful of that fact."

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