Commons assault? Labour MP charged over bar brawl in bar

 

Eric Joyce, a Labour MP, has been suspended by his party and charged with three counts of common assault following an incident in which he is alleged to have head-butted a Conservative MP during a late-night fracas in a House of Commons bar.

The 51-year-old MP for Falkirk was released late last night from Belgravia Police Station, where he was questioned after Stuart Andrew, Tory MP for Pudsey, told police he wanted to press charges for assault. A Scotland Yard spokesman said Mr Joyce will appear on bail at West London Magistrates' Court on 7 March.

An MP said breathlessly: "It was like the Wild West."

Inevitably, there were differing accounts about what happened in the wood-panelled Stranger's Bar at about 10.50pm on Wednesday.

Some people said that, after entering the bar at about 10pm, he was singing songs and another MP asked him to turn down the volume a little.

Witnesses heard Mr Joyce shout: "There are too many f***ing Tories in here." Then Mr Andrew, having a quiet pint of beer, was allegedly head-butted by the Falkirk MP. One colleague described him as someone who happened to be sitting in "the wrong place at the wrong time". Several MPs tried to calm things down. Phil Wilson, Tony Blair's mild-mannered successor in Sedgefield and a Labour whip, was apparently punched and got a blood-soaked shirt for his pains.

At one point, Mr Joyce allegedly head-butted Mr Andrew. Others who intervened included Tory Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet & Rothwell. But the heroine of the hour was Jackie Doyle-Price, Tory MP for Thurrock, who was more successful than her male counterparts in cooling the situation down.

Police were called and it took five security officers to bring the incident to an end. Mr Joyce was handcuffed and was reportedly still struggling as he was led away. A glass window in a door along the corridor was broken.

Yesterday, bar staff on duty at the time were asked to attend the police station for questioning, while officers interviewed some MPs in their offices. John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, told MPs: "I have been informed by the Serjeant at Arms that the honourable member for Falkirk has been detained in police custody. The matter is being investigated. I take this matter very seriously, as do the House authorities."

Scotland Yard confirmed it was still questioning a man over the alleged assault. A spokesman said: "The man remains in custody at a central London police station."

The Labour Party said: "This is an extremely serious incident. We have suspended Eric Joyce pending the results of the police investigation."

Traditionally, the Strangers Bar was regarded as the rowdiest at the Palace of Westminster, although it sometimes faced stiff competition from the Press Gallery. Its most common nickname is "The Stranglers", but it used to be widely known as "The Kremlin" for being mainly used by Labour MPs.

They downed pints of Newcastle-brewed Federation Bitter, while the Tories sipped gin and tonic or brandy in the more refined atmosphere of the Smoking Room.

However, some of the large intake of Tory MPs at the 2010 election now visit the Strangers Bar regularly – to the irritation of some Labour MPs.

The bar is for MPs, who are allowed to invite outsiders. Guests are not supposed to buy drinks – officially, at least.

The astonishing incident of Wednesday is a throwback to the culture which largely disappeared when the Blair Government brought in family-friendly Commons hours.

Late-night sittings are now rare and business ends at 7pm on most Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Profile: Blair loyalist seemed to have major issues

When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Eric Joyce was regarded by the Labour high command as the ultimate loyalist. He was prepared to defend the most difficult decisions, such as the Iraq war, and was trusted to bat on sticky wickets such as BBC2's Newsnight programme.

He appeared less happy after Gordon Brown succeeded Mr Blair in 2007. There were persistent rumours that he was going to resign his post as a parliamentary private secretary, the lowest rung on the government ladder, because he was disillusioned with the Brown administration. That came to nothing but he eventually resigned as aide to the Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, because of his "concerns" over the strategy in Afghanistan.

After the 2010 election, Mr Joyce served briefly as a Northern Ireland spokesman but resigned later that year when he lost his driving licence for failing to provide a breath test. There were reports of marriage problems and in a blog about the death of a friend in 2010, he suggested that he was trying to exorcise his "demons". Earlier this week, he tweeted: "OK, who's the hardest boxing correspondent in the country? There's only one way to find out."

Born in Perth, Mr Joyce signed up as a private in the Black Watch when he was still a teenager, but took a sabbatical to earn a religious studies degree from the University of Stirling and gained an officer's commission at Sandhurst. He rose to the rank of Major in the Royal Army Educational Corps, and made waves when he started an Armed Forces Journal magazine, where service personnel could voice concerns about military life. A series of articles and interviews in which he accused the Army of private-school bias upset the top brass, and he left in 1999.

After working for the Commission for Racial Equality Scotland, he was elected to Parliament as Labour MP for Falkirk West in a by-election in December 2000, increasing his majority at the following two elections and retaining the seat in 2010.

Andrew Grice

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform