BBC journalist Nick Robinson relentlessly grilled Chris Philp about Boris Johnson’s comments about Jimmy Savile during a tense interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme. The presenter demanded to know whether the Tory MP thought the Prime Minister should apologise for wrongly suggesting Sir Keir Starmer personally failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile. Mr Philp refused to give a straight answer as Mr Robinson angrily interrogated the minister following the protesters swarming the Labour leader this week.
BBC Radio 4 host Mr Robinson spoke to Mr Philp about the protests against Sir Keir and was angry that “the mob” was quoting “smears” by the Prime Minister.
He told the programme: “They, the mob, were repeating a smear first used by Boris Johnson in the House of Commons.
“So do you agree with some Conservative MPs that what Boris Johnson did was completely unacceptable and should apologise?”
Mr Philp said he did not think the Prime Minister needed to apologise as he had “clarified” his comments the previous week and claimed he was not suggesting Sir Keir was responsible for Jimmy Savile’s failed prosecution.
Mr Robinson demanded to know why Mr Johnson said it and added: “You can’t clarify something by saying the opposite of what he said.
“In Parliament, he accused Keir Starmer of ‘failing to pursue Jimmy Savile when he was director of public prosecutions’.
“Should we just get this clear on the record, that is a smear and is a lie.”
Mr Philp said Sir Keir had a “responsibility” as head of public prosecutions to ensure things ran smoothly.
Mr Robinson then asked three times whether Sir Keir had a personal involvement in the Jimmy Savile case which the Tory minister conceded he did not.
The BBC host added: “That’s a very useful clarification because it raises the question about why Boris Johnson mentioned it in the first place?
“What first attracted a prime minister fighting for his political reputation and his political life to the idea of linking his opponent to a serial paedophile?”
Mr Philp said leaders were “held generally accountable for the organisations that they lead” with Mr Robinson pointing out that was not said when the comments were first made.
The MP said Mr Johnson’s comments may have been “misconstrued at the time” and added: “Very often in political debate, opponents refer to each other’s track record and Keir Starmer was director of public prosecutions with overall CPS responsibility at the time.
“Then he clarified, politicians criticise each other’s track record including their historic record… Keir Starmer himself apologised for the CPS’ failings which he ran at the time.”
Sir Keir was swarmed by protesters earlier this week and was escorted by security after crowds verbally attacked him which has been linked to Boris Johnson’s comments.
Shouts of “traitor” and “paedophile protector” were heard and also criticisms for the Labour leader supporting Covid vaccines.
Some reports claim there were also shouts about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and attacks on journalists.
Mr Philp denied there was any connection between Mr Johnson and the protests and told BBC Breakfast there was “no way you can reasonably make a link”.
Commons defence committee chair Tobias Elwood tweeted: “Let’s stop this drift towards a Trumpian style of politics from becoming the norm.”