The Metropolitan Police is investigating death threats against Keir Starmer made in the wake of Boris Johnson’s accusation that he “failed to prosecute” Jimmy Savile.
A cache of evidence documenting the threats was sent to Scotland Yard on Friday afternoon, including a number of apparently identifiable users on the messaging app Telegram who called for the Labour party leader to be hung or “executed”.
The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which seeks to disrupt online hate, sent the material to the Met after unearthing threats to life against a named individual.
It is understood that Starmer’s office has a separate system where concerning material is passed to the police to assess.
Starmer and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy were ambushed by far-right protesters last week, some of whom shouted “traitor” and “Jimmy Savile”. Starmer blamed Boris Johnson for inciting the attack, saying he had never been accused in public of being a “paedophile protector” until the prime minister falsely accused him of failing to prosecute Savile when director of public prosecutions.
Prior to the emergence of the threats, which have been seen by the Observer, a number of Tory MPs had raised concerns that the false slur by the prime minister had endangered Starmer.
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the CCDH, called for tighter controls on Telegram and said the murders of Jo Cox in 2016 and David Amess last year should serve as a warning.
“Two sitting MPs have been murdered in the last six years. Telegram has made a calculated business decision to allow users to egg each other on to violence against named politicians with zero consequences, just as they allow anti-vaxxers, incels and other fringe extremists to congregate on their platform.
“Fundamentally, this is a national security threat and we need to act fast.”
Starmer was returning to parliament on Monday with Lammy when they had to be bundled into a police car after anti-vax protesters surrounded them with shouts of “paedo protector” and “Jimmy Savile”.
Following the incident, English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, shared footage of the ambush on his Telegram channel, prompting a supporter to call for Starmer and Lammy to be detained “until preparation can be made for their execution”.
The conspiracy theory group Resistance GB, also showed footage of the incident, leading a supporter to post that Starmer should be “linched [sic] from the nearest lamppost”.
Footage of the incident was distributed on another Telegram channel leading to further calls for Starmer and Lammy to be killed. “The sooner they’s all dead the better. Hang the fucking lot of them,” read one post.
Another added “They can all swing on a rope together.”
A separate user posted: “They all need to feel the heat of a rope around their neck.”
Another Tommy Robinson supporter posted on the “free speech” social media platform Gettr site “bring back public executions” in reference to Starmer.
Responding to the developments, a Labour source said: “Of course extremists of all stripes don’t like Keir – he spent years helping to put them and their ilk in prison and keep Britain’s streets safe from them.”
Adam Hadley, executive director and founder of Tech Against Terrorism, an initiative launched by the UN counter-terrorism executive directorate, said the harassment of Starmer and Lammy demonstrated the danger of politicians legitimising conspiracy theories.
“Conspiracy theorists and far-right extremists appear to be emboldened by this physical attack on the Labour leader. We have seen multiple posts since Monday that celebrate the incident, some with tens of thousands of views,” Hadley said.
Among the far-right groups that praised last week’s accosting of Starmer were anti-Muslim extremists Britain First, the neo-Nazi Mark Collett who called the Labour leader a “paedophile protector”, and an organisation linked to football hooligans and the EDL.
Tech Against Terrorism also found death threats with a Tommy Robinson supporter saying Labour MPs “need hanging”.
Ahmed said: “Every time a violent extremist makes a threat of violence and gets away with it, the norms of those groups worsen, and others are driven to newer depths of behaviour.”