Equalities chief condemns abuse of disabled MP

Equalities chief Trevor Phillips told today how MPs who mocked a colleague over his disability made him feel "physically sick".

Mr Phillips said the abuse of Tory MP Paul Maynard, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was "shocking". He said the MPs would have been banned had they been caught on CCTV at a football match.



But the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said he would not be intervening in the Top Gear race row, sparked after presenter Richard Hammond referred to Mexicans as "lazy" and "feckless".



Mr Phillips told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "I am not going to get hot under the collar about schoolboy provocation which frankly is organised so that we can get in to a ruck and sell more DVDs for Jeremy Clarkson.



"Jeremy is rich enough. I don't need to get in to that. I am bothered about what he said. It's juvenile, it's vulgar, it's unacceptable but that's for broadcasters and columnists to argue about. It's not for the law."



He told Marr: "We need to deal with more serious things. The other issue that you dealt with is the Paul Maynard MP problem, where he was obviously being mocked, according to his account, by other Members of Parliament.



"That to me is shocking. I felt physically sick when I read about it. If that had happened in a football ground, the people doing the mocking him would have been on CCTV and they would have whipped out of the ground and not let back.



"That's one for the Speaker (John Bercow) to look at as part of his drive to increase diversity."



Mr Maynard was elected as the Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys last May.







In an interview with The Times, Mr Maynard accused Labour MPs of "pulling faces" at him in an apparent mimic.



He said: "They were constantly intervening, trying to put me off my stride, which may be just normal parliamentary tactics.



"But some were pulling faces at me, really exaggerated gesticulations, really exaggerated faces."



He added: "Only they know for certain whether they were taking the mick out of my disability. But it felt like it."



Other MPs confirmed that the incident had taken place, during a debate about the abolition of the child trust fund last October.



The incident calls into question the sometimes highly aggressive and confrontational nature of the House of Commons. It may also undermine efforts to increase diversity in parliament.



Mr Maynard, 35, has not named his tormentors, but a Labour party source told the Mail on Sunday the behaviour of some MPs was "disgusting", describing them as a "pack of hyenas".



Labour's Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) told the newspaper he was one of a number of MPs told by the party's whip David Hamilton to "calm down" during Mr Maynard's speech.



He added: "I do remember Mr Hamilton coming over to me. He certainly told me to stop being rowdy. But I have never attacked anybody - even in a half-joking way - about disability, race or ethnicity."







A spokeswoman for Commons Speaker John Bercow said "discrimination or abuse towards any Member on any grounds is not acceptable".



She added: "Debate in the House of Commons chamber should be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and robust but dignified discussion."



On his personal website, Mr Maynard describes his cerebral palsy as "very mild" and says it does not especially affect the way he lives.



But he acknowledges: "It probably affects the way some people see me, and there will always be people who write you off because of it - but I've never let them stop me."



He was diagnosed with epilepsy too when he was 22, an event he says which was "a shock" and forced him to give up alcohol.



Labour MP Tom Harris earlier told BBC Radio 5 Live MPs would not have deliberately mocked somebody for having a disability.



He said: "There is not a single member of the House of Commons or any party who would deliberately attack or criticise or mock anyone for a disability."



Mr Harris, who was not present at the time, said he understood people were jeering until they realised there was "another issue".



He said: "Nobody knew about Paul's disability. If anyone did know about it and still made fun of him that is absolutely appalling and unforgivable."



He said in the period after the election the atmosphere in the House was at "fever pitch".



And he said it was in the nature of the Commons that anybody who made a long deliberate pause, like Mr Maynard did before speaking, would have been made to "pay the price".





Mr Phillips said Sky was right to dismiss football pundit Andy Gray after he and presenter Richard Keys were caught making sexist remarks off-air about football official Sian Massey. Keys subsequently resigned.



Refuting suggestions his Commission was no longer he needed, Mr Phillips told Andrew Marr: "Somebody has got to enforce the laws. My slogan for this is we want people to do the right thing when we are not in the room but they have got to know we are outside the room ready to step in.



"There's been a change. Sky: they did the right thing on the Andy Gray, Richard Keys thing but we didn't have to ring them up. They did the right thing. We are in a different place where we can be more proactive, preventative. That's our job."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Sport
Heskey's aim has improved since the end of his English football career

Long after his career in English football has ended, Emile Heskey's impotency in front of goal remains an object of ridicule.

News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
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

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam