Downing Street has said that Boris Johnson “stands by” his unfounded claim that Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.
The Prime Minister levelled the accusation at the Labour leader during his statement in the Commons following publication of the Sue Gray report on Monday.
Sir Keir was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when the decision not to prosecute Savile was made on the grounds of “insufficient evidence” – a decision it later apologised for.
However, there is no evidence that Starmer was personally involved in the decision.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme on Tuesday, Starmer hit out at the remark from Johnson.
“It’s a slur, it’s untrue, it’s desperate from the Prime Minister,” said the Labour leader.
“I was really struck yesterday in the House at how many Conservative MPs were disgusted at that untruth from the despatch box.
“Of course on our side, people were disgusted. But his own MPs couldn’t believe their Prime Minister had stooped that low.
“He’s degraded the whole office. And this is how he operates. He drags everybody into the gutter with him.
“Everybody he touches, everybody that comes into contact with him is contaminated by this Prime Minister.”
Former UK Government minister Julian Smith also condemned the comments from the Prime Minister, warning that “false and baseless personal slurs are dangerous” and cannot be accepted.
He said: “The smear made against Keir Starmer relating to Jimmy Saville yesterday is wrong & cannot be defended. It should be withdrawn.
“False and baseless personal slurs are dangerous, corrode trust & can’t just be accepted as part of the cut & thrust of parliamentary debate.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister stands by what he said in the House.”
The spokesman declined to repeat the Prime Minister’s assertion, arguing that it would clash with the principle of civil service impartiality.
He added: “As a civil servant it wouldn’t be right for me to repeat something which relates to a political aspect of the Prime Minister’s work.”