A minister has argued that the prime minister’s comments are not to blame for the harassment of Sir Keir Starmer outside parliament on Monday evening.
Sir Keir and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy were set upon by a group of protestors outside parliament at around 17:00 last night, and escaped via a police car.
Jack Elsom of the Sun newspaper witnessed the event, and reported that many of the attendees were shouting about Savile, while further videos circulating social media show members of the protest shouting about the “new world order,” and accusing Sir Keir of being a “traitor” and a “pedophile protector.”
The Metropolitan Police have since said in a statement that “A man and a woman were arrested at the scene for assault of an emergency worker after a traffic cone was thrown at a police officer.”
Boris Johnson has faced calls to apologise and recant his remarks made last Monday, when he accused the Labour leader of spending more “time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”.
Tech minister Chris Philp has rejected claims Boris Johnson’s comments last week provoked the mob.
He told Sky News earlier today: “I don’t think you can say that’s why it happened because some of the people involved in that fracas have previously done similar things to people like Michael Gove and BBC journalist Nick Watt.”
“I’ve listened to the whole tape, they did mention Jimmy Savile, they also mentioned Julian Assange, they mentioned Covid, they mentioned the opposition more generally.”
Sir Keir served as the director of public prosecutions for the Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 to 2013.
He did not lead the investigation into the notorious sex offender and erstwhile TV presenter, nor decide not to charge him. He later ordered an inquiry into claims police mishandled evidence.
“I don’t think you can point to what the Prime Minister said as the cause of that, you certainly can’t blame him for the fact that mob were clearly behaving in a completely unacceptable way,” Philp went on.
Johnson has posted a tweet condemning the “disgraceful” behaviour but has not apologised for his remarks. Several Conservative MPs have already demanded that he retract the comment, while Labour have accused him of “inciting” the protestors.
Labour member and trade unionist Paul Embery suggested there were double-standards at play in some reactions to Sir Keir’s harassment, writing via Twitter: “When Rees-Mogg, Gove and Farage were abused on the street by baying mobs, most people didn’t give a toss. In fact, much of the Twitterati laughed along. My point is that people should be consistent about these things. If your outrage is selective, it ain’t genuine.”
Labour MP Kim Leadbeater, whose sister Joan Cox was killed by a far-right terrorist in 2016, said via Twitter: “I’m incredibly angry & upset by the scenes we saw yesterday. I keep thinking about Keir & David’s families & friends. But these things don’t just happen. Words have consequences, leaders have a duty to behave responsibly & politics is not a game. Our country deserves far better.”