Strangely, Kwasi Kwarteng tried to defend the PM’s insult about the pedophile and Keir Starmer even though Boris Johnson has since retracted it.
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A leading Tory today doubled down on Jimmy Savile’s libel of Boris Johnson, stating that it was “perfectly reasonable”.
Kwasi Kwarteng was criticized for defending the prime minister’s use of the pedophile to attack Keir Starmer, even though Johnson was already paddling.
The business secretary told Sky News: “In that context, I think it was perfectly reasonable to bring up the fact that Sir Keir apologized on behalf of the organization he ran for the fact that Jimmy Savile was not prosecuted.
“So the fact that he apologized suggests that, on some level, he bears some responsibility.”
Sir Keir headed the Crown Prosecution Service when it decided not to prosecute Savile in 2009 due to insufficient evidence, a decision for which, as its director, he later apologized.
But the Full Fact website investigated in 2020 and found that it had never actually been suggested that Sir Keir was personally involved in the decision.
Instead, CPS said, “The reviewing attorney at the time set forth his own reasons for the decisions he made.”
Despite this, the cornered prime minister lashed out on Monday, saying: “He spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and not prosecuting Jimmy Savile, as far as I can tell.”
He was accused of repeating a far-right conspiracy theory.
He finally rowed on Thursday, saying he was not referring to Sir Keir’s “personal record” but that he did not apologize prompted assistant Munira Mirza to resign.
Lawyers representing Savile’s victims have also criticized the prime minister.
Asked to clarify his words, Mr Kwarteng said: “What I’m trying to say is that it’s about leadership, it’s about responsibility, Sir Keir apologized, and that was absolutely within reach.
“I am not saying that he was personally at fault, he was not, and we have been very clear about it, the prime minister also clarified that position.
“But I think in the cut and thrust of the debate, when people talk about leadership and responsibility, to mention something that Sir Keir himself apologized for seems reasonable.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tweeted at Mr Kwarteng: “Do you really not have the self-respect to admit that Savile’s insult of the Prime Minister was indefensible?
“You talk about leadership but you clearly don’t understand the meaning of the word. The PM was *exactly* making a personal insult: stop insulting us.”
The Sunday Times today claimed that Johnson had the idea to raise the Savile smear after Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg whispered it to him.
A spokesman for Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Mirror that it was not true that he whispered the idea to the prime minister and denied that he mentioned it in any context before Johnson made the comment on Monday.
The spokesman noted that Dominic Raab was sitting between the two men.
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Gavin Barwell, a Conservative peer who previously served as Theresa May’s chief of staff, called Savile’s discredited claim “stupid” on Johnson’s part.
Lord Barwell told the same programme: “Even if you put aside that moral argument, on a purely tactical level it was stupid of the Prime Minister.
“Because it led to the resignation of one of his key aides, it caused more MPs to send letters of mistrust towards him. It has further destabilized their position.
“The point here is that we know he was advised not to do that, and he went ahead and did it anyway.
“What that tells you is that yes, having the right people around you can help. But ultimately, the culture at Number 10 and the decisions the government makes come from the top.
“The prime minister himself, if he’s going to stay in office, he’s going to have to change the way he conducts himself and runs the government.”
Foreign Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid said they would not say the comments, sparking a cabinet civil war.
Boris Johnson’s allies turned on the ‘shameless’ Sunak for his ‘childish’ hopes for leadership.
One told the Sunday Times: “It’s a bit like a five-year-old telling the girl he likes ‘please, please’ not kiss him.
“He seems to be trying to speed up the prime minister’s departure before things get really bad with the economy.”
Another called it a “shameless plot” and added: “He has behaved in a childish, immature and petulant manner. No one will ever choose someone that deceitful as a leader.”
But Kwarteng told T&G on Times Radio: “I don’t think they were criticizing the prime minister.
“They were making a specific point about what t
they would have done it in the course of a debate, and I don’t think that’s a criticism of anyone.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.