What do Britons make of the PM’s claims about Keir Starmer regarding Jimmy Savile?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
February 16, 2022, 12:19 PM GMT+0

Half of those who currently back the Tories see the claims as being likely true

During a heated debate in the House of Commons at the beginning of the month, Boris Johnson accused the Labour leader Keir Starmer of being responsible for failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was Head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Starmer had previously apologised on behalf of the CPS for its shortcomings in the Savile case, but there is no evidence that he had any personal role in the failure to prosecute Savile, and many suspect that the prime minister’s remarks were an attempt to distract attention from the ‘partygate’ scandal.

The backlash against the prime minister was fierce, with several key members of his team resigning and calls from across the political divide for him to apologise. Keir Starmer has revealed that he has received death threats as a result of the remarks, and required police protection after being accosted by a mob on the issue.

Recent YouGov polling for The Times conducted on 10-11 February found that 87% of Britons were aware of the remarks to some degree, including 37% who said they were following the story “very” or “fairly” closely.

Asked, based on what they had seen and heard, whether they thought the prime minister’s claims were true or false, one in five Britons say that they are “probably true” (20%). Twice as many say “probably false” (42%), with the remaining 37% unsure.

Almost half of current Conservative voters (48%) believe the claims to be probably true, with only 18% suggesting they are probably false. Among those who backed the party in 2019, those figures are 39% and 26%, respectively.

Current Labour voters are far less convinced, with 70% saying they think the claims are probably false, with only 5% considering them to be likely true.

Most Britons (56%) think the allegations made by the prime minister are inappropriate, however. Only 15% of people think that making such claims was appropriate.

Current Conservative voters are divided, with 38% seeing them as inappropriate versus 34% who see them as appropriate. Those who backed the party at the last election are less equivocal, saying that such remarks are not appropriate by 46% to 27%.

Those who currently say they will back Labour consider the allegations inappropriate by 79% to 4%.

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