Minister Insists Boris Johnson Still Won’t Apologise For False Savile Claim
Health minister Ed Argar said once again that Boris Johnson will not be saying sorry for his discredited Jimmy Savile claim (Alamy)
A minister has insisted once again that Boris Johnson will not apologise for making the false claim that Labour leader Keir Starmer had failed to prosecute the paedophile Jimmy Savile when he was the head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Despite more than a week of pressure on the Prime Minister from his own MPs and members of the public to retract his widely discredited remarks, health minister Edward Argar insisted this morning that the Prime Minister still had no reason to apologise.
He told Sky News that Johnson “has been very clear – he's clarified what he was talking about”.
Argar is the latest in a long line of ministers to publicly defend the claim made by the Prime Minister in the Commons last week.
"He's clarified that he was talking about Sir Keir in the context of his leadership role at the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service]," Argar said.
“Just as, quite rightly, Sir Keir holds him to account for his leadership role over the government.
"That doesn't mean personal responsibility for individual decisions, but that's the context, and the Prime Minister has clarified that.”
Johnson is once again under pressure to withdraw the comments and issue an apology when he faces Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions today.
But Argar suggested that despite new polling by Savanta ComRes showing that 68% of people surveyed say Johnson should publicly apologise for his comments, he will go no further than repeating his clarification to MPs.
"I'll be honest with you, I suspect that's what you will hear from the Prime Minister later,” he added.
On Monday the Labour leader was mobbed by protesters in Westminster who hurled abuse at him, including repeating the Savile slur used by Johnson.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister was not to blame for the incident, but it led to a rebuke from the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who warned MPs their "words have consequences”.
However Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden, said the debate should move on from the remarks.
"The truth is, the longer you and I are talking about this, in a way that's what Boris Johnson wants," he told Sky News.
“I think he wants to continue this debate, I think he's quite happy with this scurrilous rumour being spread around.”
McFadden said he would rather be talking about high energy prices, the NHS backlog and tackling fraud.
"To be honest, that's what we want to focus on rather than continue the debate about what happened on Monday, unpleasant as it was,” he added.
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