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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower