Welsh Conservative MP Stephen Crabb urges Boris Johnson to withdraw 'ill-judged' Savile accusation

Stephen Crabb said Boris Johnson's accusation was 'not befitting of a Prime Minister'. Credit: PA Images

A Welsh Conservative MP says Boris Johnson’s false accusation that Keir Starmer failed to prosecute the paedophile Jimmy Savile was “ill-judged and not befitting of a Prime Minister.”

The Prime Minister has faced huge criticism after making the comments on Monday when he was defending himself over the interim report into allegations of parties being held in Downing Street during the pandemic lockdown.

He claimed that Labour leader Sir Keir, who used to be the director of public prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), had used his time in that post “prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile".

The row has intensified today with the resignation of one of Mr Johnson's most loyal aides, who told him she was quitting as head of policy because he ignored her advice to apologise.

Munira Mirza was considered one of Mr Johnson's most loyal allies and has worked with him for more than a decade. Credit: PA Images

In her resignation letter, Munira Mirza said: "I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice.

"There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. This was not the usual cut-and-thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse. You tried to clarify your position today but, despite my urging, you did not apologise for the misleading impression you gave.

"You are a better man than many of your detractors will ever understand, which is why it is so desperately sad that you let yourself down by making a scurrilous accusation against the Leader of the Opposition."

The extent of Savile's crimes only came to light after his death in 2011. Credit: PA Images

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, who is a former Welsh Secretary, told his local paper the Pembrokeshire Herald: "I thought the Jimmy Savile smear used by Boris Johnson towards Keir Starmer was ill-judged and not befitting of a Prime Minister. He should withdraw it."

Yesterday the Wales Office minister David TC Davies told reporters: “I believe that is a fact that Keir Starmer was the head of the CPS when somebody much further down the chain decided not to prosecute Jimmy Savile. I believe that that's factually the case.

"And I suppose the point being made was that it is possible to be head of an organisation in which other people further down fail in some way. And it's right to take responsibility, but not necessarily correct that somebody should resign or be got rid of was, I think, the point being made."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used to be Director of Public Prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service. Credit: PA Images

Earlier on Thursday, the Prime Minister tried to defuse the row by insisting he was not referring to Sir Keir's "personal record" - but stopped short of an apology.

"I want to be very clear about this because a lot of people have got very hot under the collar, and I understand why," he told broadcasters in Blackpool.

"Let's be absolutely clear, 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. I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole.

"I really do want to clarify that because it is important."

That ‘clarification’ was welcomed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although Rishi Sunak distanced himself from the original remarks.

"With regard to the comments, being honest I wouldn’t have said it and I am glad the Prime Minister clarified what he meant," he said.