LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday (Feb 3) backed down on an accusation he had made that the main opposition leader had failed to prosecute one of Britain’s worst sex offenders, after the remark drew wide criticism including from his own lawmakers.
During angry exchanges in parliament on Monday, Johnson had accused Labour Party leader Keir Starmer of “of prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile” during his time as Director of Public Prosecutions.
On Wednesday, Starmer accused him of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists” by repeating the false claim that he was responsible for the decision not to take action against Savile, a celebrated TV and radio host who was never prosecuted despite a number of police investigations.
After his death in 2011, aged 84, it was revealed Savile had abused hundreds of victims, the youngest of whom was just eight.
“I want to be very clear about this because a lot of people have got very hot under the collar,” Johnson told broadcasters.
“I’m talking not about the leader of the opposition’s personal record when he was … DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions.”
Johnson and his spokesman had previously declined to step back from his initial remarks, but there has been growing condemnation not just from opposition politicians but also by some in his own party who said he should withdraw the comments.
Johnson, who is already facing calls from at least half a dozen of his own lawmakers to resign over parties at Downing Street held during coronavirus lockdowns, said he now wanted to clarify his Savile barb.
“I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole and I think people can see that and I just I really do want to clarify that because it is important,” he said.