Keir Starmer was harassed outside parliament today, when anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protesters shouted “traitor”, “disgrace”, “Freemason” and “New World Order” at the party leader, along with accusations of “protecting paedophiles”.
As the Labour leader was returning to parliament from a briefing at the Ministry of Defence, he was targeted by a mob who shouted questions about jailed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and about serial sex offender Jimmy Savile.
Along with Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy, the opposition leader was pursued by protesters while walking surrounded by police officers. He was then put in a police car and returned to his parliamentary office safely.
The incident took place one week after Boris Johnson claimed in parliament that as director of public prosecutions Starmer “spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can make out”.
The Prime Minister was protected by parliamentary privilege, but it has been established that the Savile claim – which has circulated on social media and been promoted by far-right activists – is incorrect as Starmer was not the reviewing lawyer for the case.
Commenting after the protester accusations about “protecting paedophiles” today, Labour MP Chris Bryant tweeted: “This was incited by the Prime Minister. It was the inevitable conclusion of his deliberate lies.”
Labour MP Angela Eagle similarly tweeted: “Proud of yourself stoking up the worst Internet conspiracy theories PM? Disgusting new low”. Diane Abbott MP remarked: “This is where Boris Johnson’s Trump style lies [get] you”.
Lammy also took to Twitter, saying it was “no surprise” that the “thugs” had “repeated slurs we heard from Boris Johnson last week”. The Labour frontbencher added: “Intimidation, harassment and lies have no place in our democracy. And they won’t ever stop me doing my job.”
Tory MPs have also criticised Johnson today. Julian Smith tweeted: “What happened to Keir Starmer tonight outside parliament is appalling. It is really important for our democracy & for his security that the false Savile slurs made against him are withdrawn in full.”
Conservative MP Robert Largan posted: “Words matter. What we say & how we say it echoes out far beyond Parliament. It can have serious real world consequences. Elected representatives have a responsibility to lower the temperature of debate, not add fuel to the fire.”
Update: Boris Johnson has tweeted: “The behaviour directed at the Leader of the Opposition tonight is absolutely disgraceful. All forms of harassment of our elected representatives are completely unacceptable. I thank the police for responding swiftly.”
In a livestream of the protests posted on YouTube, Piers Corbyn is present and says: “Keir Starmer walking past was just a bit too much of a coincidence. I can’t believe he was walking past to say hello to us. I think he was a set-up, probably.”
The anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist is also seen speaking to a protester with a hangman noose prop who refers to Starmer as “the paedophile protector” and says “Boris wasn’t allowed to mention that in the House, was he?”.
After Starmer said Johnson had repeated a “ridiculous slur peddled by right-wing trolls”, the Prime Minister did not apologise but said he wanted to “clarify” his comments, which were made during a discussion of Downing Street parties being investigated by police.
Johnson said: “I’m talking not about the leader of the opposition’s personal record when he was director of public prosecutions and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions.”
A Metropolitan Police statement said: “Shortly after 5.10pm on Monday, February 7, a man who had been surrounded by a group of protesters near to New Scotland Yard, was taken away from the scene by a police car.
“A man and a woman were arrested at the scene for assault of an emergency worker after a traffic cone was thrown at a police officer. They have been taken into custody.”