Thursday 14 December 2017

Conservative MP tweet saying he would punch female journalist in throat 'unacceptable' - Cameron

Conservative MP Michael Fabricant
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant

A CONSERVATIVE MP's suggestions that he would punch a female journalist in the throat have been condemned by David Cameron as "completely unacceptable and in poor taste", No 10 said.

Michael Fabricant made the remark about high-profile left-wing journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown after she clashed with right-wing commentator Rod Liddle on a television news programme.

Over a series of tweets, Mr Fabricant attempted to make amends, telling Ms Alibhai-Brown she was "utterly infuriating" but he would not have actually punched her.

But the journalist said he could "stuff" the apology, which was "actually making it worse".

Mr Fabricant then went on to write: "So just for the avoidance of any doubt: I am v sorry for tweet. It was wrong to joke abt punching + I completely withdraw and apologise."

The backbencher caused a Twitter storm and landed in trouble with his party's high command after writing: "I could never appear on a discussion prog with @y_alibhai I would either end up with a brain haemorrhage or by punching her in the throat."

Downing Street said Mr Fabricant was right to apologise but said Mr Cameron viewed the comments as "completely unacceptable".

"The Prime Minister thinks that Michael Fabricant's comments were completely unacceptable and in poor taste," a spokeswoman said.

"There is never any excuse for suggesting violence."

Ms Alibhai-Brown said she was "reeling" from the comments. She told LBC: "Is this his apology? Well he can stuff it.

"I don't want to talk to him at all.

"This is his apology? As an elected Member of Parliament (he) thinks it's okay to say that he would punch me in the throat because he didn't like what I said to a man who is perfectly capable of taking anything, Mr Rod Liddle, he's not a soft little kitten.

"He has not apologised. I do not call this an apology. This is him trying to get out of a difficult situation and he's actually making it worse," she added.

Ms Alibhai-Brown, a Muslim who came to Britain from Uganda in 1972, said she felt like Mr Fabricant was "encouraging" people who have previously threatened violence against her.

"These guys find us unbearable," she added. "I think they still think Asian women should be their ayahs, their nursemaids, or selling them takeaways."

Labour's Gloria De Piero, shadow minister for women and equalities, said the comments were "utterly appalling" and it was "unacceptable that views like this persist in the Conservative Party".

Mr Fabricant, a former Tory whip, has long been a thorn in the side of the Conservative leadership and is well known for courting controversy on Twitter.

When it emerged that Flight MH370 had gone missing, he tweeted: ''It occurs to me: All our good news on the economy is currently as submerged and lost as the Malaysian Airlines flight recorder...''

The MP, whose Twitter avatar is a character from figure-skating comedy Blades Of Glory, also reportedly landed in hot water with the Tory hierarchy after joking about having a relationship with a llama.

He tweeted a link to a Times diary story which reported that he was told ''No 10 says it has enough problems with the party in getting equal marriage through without you advocating bestiality'', adding the comment: ''Oh dear. I have told the llama story to one too many ppl. But I couldn't keep a straight face!''

He was sacked as a party vice-chair in April following outspoken criticism of the HS2 rail scheme and the Maria Miller expenses row.

Earlier today he retweeted a message that said the "conservative party are a bunch of tossers, except you Mike" adding: "Now I am no longer Vice Chairman, I can RT that lol!".

Mr Cameron told LBC radio: "Let's be clear, it's a completely unacceptable thing to say and it's right that he apologised and he retracted and he apologised fully. He's now done that, but this should never have been said in the first place. It's not an acceptable thing to say."

Asked whether the Lichfield MP might face any further repercussions, Mr Cameron said: "Well, I think the action that needed to be taken was a swift retraction and a full apology and now that retraction and apology have been properly delivered.

"I think further action isn't necessary, but no-one should be in any doubt that it's just not an acceptable thing to say and Michael Fabricant knows that that is my view and I don't want to see this happen again."

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