The weirdness of BoJo’s Savilegate

8 Feb

… this leader of the opposition, a former director of public prosecution … used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile – Boris Johnson

This was not the usual cut and thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse – Munira Mirza 1

… unthinkable that Starmer was not consulted on the decision to shelve the Savile case – what do they expect us to believe his role was? Ordering paperclips? – Craig Murray

What makes the situation even weirder is that Johnson’s so-called “smears” of Starmer may not be smears at all [but] rare examples of Johnson alluding – in his own clumsy and self-interested way – to genuinely problematic behaviour by Starmer – Jonathan Cook

Writing yesterday on his Blog from Nazareth, Jonathan Cook dissects with that calm lucidity of his the hypocrisy overlaying, the ugly truths underpinning, and the Alice-in surreality (it’s hard to read that “prosecuting journalists” as other than a reference to Julian Assange 2 ) of the media frenzy over BoJo’s depiction of Keir Starmer as the man who let Jimmy Savile off the hook.


Didn’t those enraged at Boris Johnson’s ‘smears’ of Starmer defame Corbyn at every turn?

Media outrage at Johnson linking the Labour leader to Jimmy Savile is because his comments inadvertently exposed the dark underbelly of the British establishment

“Why is Boris Johnson making false claims about Starmer and Savile?” runs a headline in the news pages of the Guardian. It is just one of a barrage of indignant recent stories in the British media, rushing to the defence of the opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

The reason? Last week the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, blamed Starmer, now the Labour party leader, for failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, a TV presenter and serial child abuser, when his case came under police review in 2009. Between 2008 and 2013, Starmer was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Savile died in 2011 before he could face justice.

Johnson accused Starmer, who at the time was Director of Public Prosecutions, of wasting “his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”.

The sudden chorus of outrage at Johnson impugning Starmer’s reputation is strange in many different ways. It is not as though Johnson has a record of good behaviour. His whole political persona is built on the idea of his being a rascal, a clown, a chancer.

He is also a well-documented liar. Few, least of all in the media, cared much about his lying until now. Indeed, most observers have long pointed out that his popularity was based on his mischief-making and populist guise as an anti-establishment politician. No one, apart from his political opponents, seemed too bothered.

And it is also not as though there are not lots of other, more critically important things relating to Johnson to be far more enraged about, even before we consider his catastrophic handling of the pandemic, and his raiding of the public coffers to enrich his crony friends and party donors.

Jumping ship

Johnson is currently embroiled in the so-called “partygate” scandal. He  attended – and his closest officials appear to have organised – several gatherings at his residence in Downing Street in 2020 and 2021 at a time when the rest of the country was under strict lockdown. For the first time the public mood has shifted against Johnson.

Read Jonathan’s piece in full …

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  1. One minor aspect of the surreality is the resignation of the PM’s policy chief, Munira Mirza. Four days ago a Birmingham local paper wrote:

    Mirza was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a tiny ex-Trotskyist political sect that later ended up on a right-wing political trajectory. A number of RCP alumni have continued to form a tight network increasingly influential in Conservative circles.

    The idea of the RCP – for my money the most philistine tendency on the ‘eighties Left – ever having been Trotskyist is a bit of a stretch but the description of its rightwardly libertarian drift is on the nail. Think also Baroness Claire Fox and Professor Frank Furedi.

  2. After Starmer was jeered by protesters outside parliament, and the incident linked to Bojo’s verbals inside it, the Express had Chris Philp leaping to his boss’s defence: “I’ve watched the clip in full .. and these people were mostly talking about Julian Assange for some reason I don’t understand.” (Emphasis mine.) Given Bojo’s words – see my opening quote – we can say either that the Minister for Technology is a fuckwit or that a media focus on that “protecting paedophiles” gibe has done a grand job of steering us all away from the bit about “prosecuting journalists”. Not that the two conclusions are mutually exclusive.

12 Replies to “The weirdness of BoJo’s Savilegate

  1. Craig Murray has some interesting arguments about those like Munira Mirza:

    The question is not why Munira Mirza resigned, the question is why the taxpayer was paying £143,762 a year in salary to this very dubious failed politician. Similarly, can anybody find anything about Elena Narozanski that remotely suggests she was worth a public salary of over £80,000 to provide policy advice on equalities to Boris Johnson? What precisely were her qualifications and experience for that kind of income and influence?

    Reading between the lines of Murray’s piece leaves the distinct impression that the real culprits behind what the fifth column excuse for a media refer to as ‘Partygate’ are the various spads and other senior civil servant advisors who are resigning in apparent disgust. Letting Johnson take the full blame for something they are least in part (if not in whole?) responsible for.

    A further interesting feature of the wider evolving context here concerns the narratives in play.

    Starmer is being defended by the Establishment at a time when the narrative across Zone A (the Western World) in relation to civil protest has turned 180 degrees. Its a noticeable disorientation for those who lived through the past half century or so to suddenly realise the Establishment narrative has largely changed the focus away from labeling civil protesters and critiques as ‘looney left’ in favour of depicting them as coming from the right.

    Examples abound. From the cartoons of truckers in Canada driving trucks labelled ‘fascist’ whilst the Canadian Establishment scream about right wing Nazi terrorists trying to instigate an insurrection against democracy (aided of course by the ever present Russian bogyman); through to the list of guests on the Joe Rogan podcasts divided up between ‘left’ and right’ which portrays Tulsi Gabbard and Russel Brand as ‘on the right’.

    Similarly, organised protest groups across the world are being labelled as anti-democratic right wing hate groups/covid deniers/insurrectionists who would once have been denounced in the official narratives as ‘far left.’

    A theme which even makes its way onto self-styled ‘left’ alternative media sites.

    In terms of the UK it seems the Establishment have concluded they have succeeded in isolating the older authentic left from the body politic in the traditional parties of the left – Labour, Greens (who are more interested in the narcissism of self ID than the environment), SNP, Lib-Dems; whilst at the same time schooled over time a younger generation into believing that individualism in the form of self ID rather than unity and class struggle is progressive rather than having more in common with Thatcher and Rand.

    The SNP, along with the Greens, have been safely neutralised and brought into line with Establishment interests and values. The Labour Party has been properly purged by the Knight on behalf of the Trilateral Commission and are now safe to continue performing their role as the ‘loyal’ opposition (loyal to what exactly) in preparation for replacing the present Government with a carbon copy.

    Interesting times.

    • … the Establishment narrative has changed from labeling civil protesters and critiques as ‘looney left’ in favour of depicting them as coming from the right …

      Tariq Ali hit nail on head when dubbing neoliberalism and its techno-managerialist stewards as “the extreme centre”. Given this, and a post Blair surge in “woke” identity politics, painting unwelcome truths – e.g. that it is naive or worse to take DPP denials of Starmer having no involvement with the Savile case as the last word on the matter – as “far right conspiracy theories” makes perfect sense.

  2. “Mirza was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a tiny ex-Trotskyist political sect that later ended up on a right-wing political trajectory”

    You have to wonder who she might have been working for in her time at the RCP.

    • I’m open minded on the matter, Johnny. I wouldn’t rule out your suggestion but, as one who often sparred with RCP back in the day (after a brief period in which I was drawn to its well packaged platform) can locate that “rightward libertarian drift” in its specious anti-intellectualism. Ironically, RCP leader Frank Furedi (then using the pseudonym of Billy Bunter creator, Frank Richards) now lambasts, in ways I often agree with, the threat to academic standards of what he calls higher education’s “therapy culture”.

  3. Once again Craig Murray is in fine form on the way in which the Establishment has closed ranks here:

    Noting that:

    Alison Levitt, the lawyer appointed by Keir Starmer to produce the report which “cleared” him of involvement in the decision not to prosecute Jimmy Savile, is married to Lord Carlile, friend of two serial paedophiles, Greville Janner and Cyril Smith.

    Indeed, Carlile even went as far as using Parliamentary privilege to not only defend Janner but to smear the reputation of at least one of those who had come forward with allegations at a time when the police had sufficient evidence to prosecute.

    And Murray is in fine form on this point:

    Alex Carlile may well have had no idea Janner was a paedophile. After all, he shared a cramped parliamentary office with Cyril Smith for many years, and apparently never realised that Smith was a prolific paedophile. Possibly Alex Carlile is simply a particularly unobservant man.

    Further twisting the rapier into Starmer:

    It is however unfortunate that Starmer chose to appoint as the legal eagle to exonerate him over Jimmy Savile, the wife of the stalwart parliamentary defender of Britain’s second most prominent paedophile. I presume that Starmer never noticed that either, just as he did not notice the decision by his office and the staff under him not to prosecute Savile.

    The idea that someone as dangerous to the preservation of long standing principles of due process and justice as Keir Starmer represents in any way either an improvement or realistic alternative to the buffoon presently occupying 10 Downing Street speaks volumes about the non-choices on offer.

    Britain’s political system has always been a rotten borough masquerading as a Country. However, not only is the stench becoming more untenable it is also becoming more visible.

    This must be what Rome felt like before the ‘Barbarians’ put it out of its self-inflicted misery.

    • I like the rotten borough comparison! Not hard to see BoJo standing for Tory re-election in 1830, challenged by Whig Keir Starmer, for one of the two seats at Old Sarum while Manchester had no seats at all.

      As for whether or not the CPS should have prosecuted back in 2009, on the available evidence and applying whatever criteria it is meant to, I’m trying to keep an open mind. See my reply, below, to Bryan. FWIW, while I take seriously the web of connectivity Craig has drawn, I don’t share his implied conclusion that it takes egregious lack of observation not to spot a paedophile at five paces. Do they give off a funny odour? Have eyes too close together? One thing we do know is that not all sexual predators live with their moms, give off a creepy vibe and wear shabby macs. The most successful of them can do a very good job of appearing to be regular guys. Again, I stress that I don’t know either way.

  4. I felt sickened when I heard Johnson play the Savile card against Starmer – because of its use as a cheap political jibe of what was a catastrophic collective failure by many, many professionals to address what was sexual abuse in plain sight over many, many years.. However, notwithstanding what I know to be the huge barriers to prosecuting sexual abuse through our Criminal Justice System and the likelihood that the legal advice at the time not to proceed was probably reasonable, a little bit of me wondered whether it it was credible that Starmer had no involvement in the final decision making. Although heads of organisations often have to resign for actions taken by others within it, in this case the issue was a lack of action.

    The general feeling in the mainstream media seemed to be that this (Johnson’s jibe) was the actions of a desperate man – so desperate and beyond the pale that he proceeded despite being strongly advised not to.

    Then I read the Jonathon Cook piece and saw the linking of the failure to prosecute Savile with the attempts to facilitate the extradition of Assange as a very deliberate and thought out attempt to alienate Starmer from both the left and the right.

    I am still sickened by it though.

    • As a former professional in that field, Bryan, you know far more than I’ll ever know about the paedophilia issue. I think two things need separating. One, was it credible that Starmer was not consulted on Savile? Given the man’s celebrity and do-gooder status – pushing hospital trolleys down NHS corridors … those klunk-klick-every-trip safety ads – I think not. And I enjoyed Craig’s “paper clips” gibe!

      Two, can we be sure that the CPS/DPP decision not to press charges against Savile was a political stitch-up – echoes of the well connected Epstein – to protect the powerful? I can’t rule that out but it seems to me, an outsider, plausible that a lawyerly assessment put the evidence below the threshold of probability for securing a conviction. You will know better than me the reticence of alleged victims to face the wrath, scorn and vitriol of the best defence barristers money can buy. Etc etc.

      Be that as it may, my focus – and Jonathan’s – has been on how widely the other half of BoJo’s gibe has been ignored by corporate media. Your final paragraph opens a line of inquiry I again don’t feel able to rule in or out. I chose the term “Alice-in surreality” as I find it plausible that, in the heat of the moment and carried away by his own rhetoric, he was willing to use whatever weapons his mindset – a mix of Bullingdon Club and Boris First – could in those few seconds seize upon. Including one he might, on reflection, have eschewed given (a) its bizarreness coming from him and (b) its potential for blow-back. Or is he so bright and quick witted he knew (a) that said bizarreness would leave everyone in the dust through the chutzpah of its sheer illogicality and (b) that corporate media – with their own reasons for fearing the Assange element – would downplay that aspect?

      Search me.

  5. I doubt Johnson thinks these things through much. Like many people, when under pressure or backed into a corner, he lashes out with whatever is to hand. In this case he probably has had numerous discussions with aides/advisors about what he could use to smear Starmer, and this one had stuck in his mind. He doesn’t give the impression of someone who plans what he says carefully. I get the feeling he is too lazy and self-indulgent to bother, which is why so many of his speeches appear to be made up on the spot. He probably jots down the essentials, then relies on his chutzpah to wing it.

    What his reference to journalists suggests is that this has been a topic of discussion among his circle. Which means that the argument that Assange is a journalist who has been locked up for exposing things that the establishment didn’t want aired is understood, and to an extent accepted by the very same people who are making sure he remains in custody. In effect, Johnson is saying, “You and I, SKS, know that Assange was doing the job of a proper journalist, but we also know that the job of the courts is to protect the corrupt system we both benefit from, not to undermine it”.

    • Re your first para, Zoltan, my thoughts too. Re your second – “that Assange is a journalist who has been locked up for exposing things that the establishment didn’t want aired is understood” – I think you’re onto something. I hadn’t considered that aspect of the matter.

  6. I was a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party through the 1980s and kept contact with it, admittedly increasingly less frequently, more or less to its demise in 1997, and I have no memory of Ms Munir as a member or supporter of the group. So she must have come around the party right at the end. The puzzling thing is this: the RCP was in free fall by the mid-1990s, losing members and supporters, whole branches in places, hand over fist. Its activities and publications showed a distinct lack of direction. Why would anyone join it at that point?

    The puzzle now is: she said that Johnson crossed a line by associating Starmer with Savile. Well that’s as may be, but as Johnson’s gaffes and stupidities didn’t worry her in the past, what’s the real reason for her departure? I suspect that she felt then that his days were numbered, and she didn’t want to go down with his ship. As I write, he’s still there, but in a shaky position. Meanwhile, for whom is Ms Mirza working today?

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