Tory MP arrested in sexual assault probe

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The Independent Online

A Tory MP was released on bail yesterday after being arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, was arrested in relation to allegations of assaulting a 29-year-old woman in central London.

Mr Bridgen, 46, who is married with two young sons, is a former businessman who entered Parliament at last year's general election.

The Metropolitan Police said: "A 46-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault against a 29-year-old woman at an address in SW1 in the early hours of this morning. He has been bailed to return on a date in mid-July."

A spokesman indicated that the alleged assault did not take place in the Houses of Parliament but in a flat in Westminster.

Described by the ConservativeHome website as "straight-talking, hard-working and a self-made success", Mr Bridgen is a right-wing Eurosceptic with a reputation for being independent-minded. He has criticised his party's A-list system for favouring certain candidates and said he had "considerable sympathy" for bed-and-breakfast owners who did not want to accommodate unmarried couples.

This week he spoke out against watering down the Government's proposals to overhaul the NHS, saying: "If we fail to go through with these reforms, we are caving in to Stalinist protectionist elements."

Hours later, appearing on BBC2's Newsnight, he appeared to tone down his criticism and backed David Cameron's retreat over NHS reform.

Mr Bridgen also spoke out against the use of taxpayers' money to help fund a film starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher amid suspicions among Tory MPs that it could be hostile to the former Prime Minister.

A Tory party spokesman said yesterday: "This is a matter for the police. It would be inappropriate to comment until the facts are clear."