Keir Starmer has blamed Boris Johnson’s slur about Jimmy Savile for inciting a mob that accosted him outside parliament on Monday.
The Labour leader said he had never before been accused in public of being a “paedophile protector” until the prime minister falsely accused him, a week before the attack, of failing to prosecute Savile when he was director of public prosecutions (DPP).
In an interview with the Times, Starmer said Johnson had used a “deliberate slur without any basis in fact”. He added: “The PM knew exactly what he was doing. It is a conspiracy theory of violent fascists that has been doing the rounds for some time.”
On Monday, police escorted the Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, away from demonstrators, some of whom accused him of protecting paedophiles while others shouted “nonce” and “Jimmy Savile”.
The prime minister has refused to apologise for the remark but has since claimed that he was not referring to Starmer’s personal record at the Crown Prosecution Service.
Starmer told the Times: “I have never been called a paedophile protector before. That happened [on Monday] for the first time in my life. 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.”
He reiterated that he had no involvement in the decision not to prosecute Savile. He said: “I knew nothing about the decision. When Savile died I instigated a review to audit whether any cases had come across the desk of any CPS officers and discovered at that stage decisions had been made.”
Starmer added: “It’s not about me, it’s the way we conduct our politics. I don’t want to see us go down the route that this potentially takes us.”
Following the barracking of Starmer on Monday, Johnson tweeted that the “behaviour directed” at the Labour leader was “absolutely disgraceful”. But several Conservative MPs urged him to go further by apologising for what has been called a “scurrilous accusation” against Starmer.
Labour said Monday’s incident occurred when Starmer, accompanied by Lammy, was walking back from the Ministry of Defence after a briefing on the situation in Ukraine. Starmer is travelling to Brussels where he and Johnson will separately meet the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, to discuss Ukraine.
“The message is that we are firm and united in our support for Nato,” Starmer told the Times. He also distanced himself from his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn – a long-term Nato sceptic. He criticised Corbyn for refusing to accept that Russia was responsible for the Salisbury poisonings.
“What was said by my predecessor in relation to issues like Salisbury was wrong. I spoke out at the time,” Starmer said.