Boris Johnson’s “Trumpian” claim that Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile is turning off traditional Tories, a former home secretary has claimed.
Amber Rudd, who served under former prime minister Theresa May, said the allegation — which has proven to be baseless — was a “disgraceful thing to say” and a “step too far” for many Conservative MPs.
It comes as another three Tory MPs publicly said they had submitted a letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Johnson made the allegation during a heated Commons debate over the Sue Gray report into Downing Street parties on Monday, in which he accused the Labor leader of “failing to prosecute” serial sex offender Savile while he was Director of Public Prosecutions.
The claim has been widely debunked by fact-checking services such as Full Fact, which found that although Starmer was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) at the time, he was not the lawyer reviewing the case.
And while a later investigation criticized the actions of both the CPS and the police it did “not suggest that Starmer was personally involved in the decisions made”, Full Fact said.
During PMQs on Wednesday, Starmer accused the PM of peddling the “conspiracy theories of violent fascists” to score “cheap political points”.
But when invited to “restore some dignity” to the debate and withdraw the comment, the prime minister did not and instead stood by it.
There are signs that the widely condemned comments could be spurring on some Tories to move against Johnson.
Tobias Ellwood, who yesterday confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Johnson, cited the prime minister’s Savile claim in his criticism of the prime minister.
“Who advised the prime minister to say this? he asked.
“We’re better than this, we must seek to improve our standards and rise above where we are today.”
Rudd said Conservative MPs were now getting “a lot of letters” from “church wardens” who had always voted for their Tory MP but “can’t vote for you while that man is charge”.
Asked whether she thought Johnson could survive as PM, she said: “I don’t think he can.”
“I think in his shoes he should be thinking for instance should he be calling that no confidence vote now.
“A lot of Conservative MPs are saying we’re going to wait for Sue Gray part two or we’re going to wait for the Met report.
“Most people have already made up their minds.”
A vote of no confidence will be held in Johnson’s leadership if Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 backbench committee, receives 54 letters from his colleagues.
So far, 11 Tory MPs are understood to have submitted a letter to Brady, while a number of other Conservative MPs have suggested he should consider his position or have been highly critical.