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David Lammy Says Anti-Vaccine Mob "Played Back" Boris Johnson's False Savile Slur

(Image: Louise Haywood-Schiefer)

3 min read

David Lammy said it was “deeply disturbing” to hear anti-vaccine protesters repeating comments by Boris Johnson suggesting Keir Starmer was responsible for the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

The shadow foreign secretary told PoliticsHome he had never heard any world leader “other than Donald Trump” make comments comparable to those made by the Prime Minister last week.

He accused Boris Johnson of repeating “fake news and crude caricatures” and bringing the views of “hard right hate groups… into the mainstream”.

“To see that played back by this mob that accosted us on the street was deeply, deeply disturbing,” Lammy said in an interview that will appear in full in the next issue of The House.

On Monday Lammy and Starmer were accosted by a group of protesters who accused the Labour leader of being a "paedophile" who had protected Savile.

Lammy praised the “robust” response of the Metropolitan Police in protecting both him and Starmer, who was bundled into a police car to avoid the mob.

Earlier on Thursday, the Labour leader told The Times that he believed there was a “link” between Johnson’s comments and the incident on Monday.

“I have never been called a paedophile protector before. That happened [on Monday] for the first time in my life,” he said. 

“If others want to argue that this is unconnected with precisely what the PM said one week before then let them make that case. But they’ll never persuade me that there is no link.”

Lammy and Starmer were returning from a meeting at the Ministry of Defence on the developing situation on the Ukraine-Russia border, which the shadow foreign secretary described as “the most serious” briefing he’d attended “in the 21 years that I have been in public life”. 

He recounted how protesters broke through a barrier across the road to surround them and “shout expletives”.

“They were continually referring to the Jimmy Savile case, shouting ‘peado’. There was no doubt about it — the situation was febrile. 

“It felt threatening. There was violence. There was pushing. There was shoving. The Metropolitan Police were having to be very robust to protect Keir Starmer and myself.”

He continued: “I have no doubt that this [incident] underlines why we have had the centuries old rules in the House of Commons about language, about truth, honesty and integrity.”

The Prime Minister has faced considerable criticism for claiming in the Commons last week that Starmer, who was previously director of public prosecutions, "used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile".

The claim, which has previously been spread on far-right groups on social media, is false and has been repeatedly debunked

While Starmer was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when the decision not to prosecute Savile was made, he was not the lawyer responsible for the decision. The decision was based on police mishandling of evidence.

Allies of Johnson have defended the comments, however, with Gove insisting last week that "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, he brought in an independent lawyer to look at that and I think that we should recognise that in doing that he did the right thing.”

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