Michael Fabricant Twitter row: Tory MP apologises for threatening to punch journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown 'in the throat'

 

The Conservatives were accused of failing to take a zero tolerance approach to violence against women on Friday night, after a prominent MP escaped disciplinary action for saying that he would like to punch a woman’s throat.

Michael Fabricant was widely condemned and faced calls to resign his seat after the abusive tweet targeted at Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. 

His message set off a string of abusive and threatening tweets directed against the journalist from some other male users of the website.

While David Cameron described Mr Fabricant’s remarks as “completely unacceptable”, he resisted calls to suspend the MP.

Mr Fabricant, a former Conservative party vice-chairman, posted the tweet after watching Ms Alibhai-Brown take part in a heated studio debate. He wrote that if he were to appear on television with her, “I would either end up with a brain haemorrhage or by punching her in the throat”.

Initially, the MP reacted to the outrage caused by his tweet by treating it as a joke.

When a television crew appeared at his door, he boasted: “This is the first time I’ve ever been doorstepped! I feel like a star!”

He also tweeted a message directly to Ms Alibhai-Brown, saying: “If you actually thought I would punch you, I actually don’t do that sort of thing. But you are utterly infuriating!”

But the MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire changed his tone after Downing Street intervened. He was contacted by the Conservative whips office and given what was described by party sources as a “stern talking to”. He then posted a tweet admitting that it was wrong to “joke” about punching someone. He added: “I completely withdraw and apologise.”

This was enough for Mr Cameron to hope the controversy would die down quickly. The Prime Minister told LBC: “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. Michael Fabricant knows that that is my view and I don’t want to see this happen again.”

But writing for The Independent, Ms Alibhai-Brown said that she did not believe that the original tweet was meant as a joke, but was written because the Tory MP was angry to hear a woman from an ethnic minority expressing forceful opinions. 

“Note that he said he wanted to smash my throat: it is my voice he wants to shut off,” she claimed.

Ms Alibhai-Brown was given police protection several years ago because of threats levelled at her. In 2010, a Tory councillor in Birmingham, Gareth Compton, was suspended from the party and arrested after tweeting a suggestion that she should be stoned to death.

“I have had horrible stuff coming at me all day, from guys who think it is okay now, because an MP started it,” Ms Alibhai-Brown added.

Mr Fabricant’s tweet was widely condemned. Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Fabricant’s tweet is appalling. Cameron needs to set out what action he will take.”

Shadow Women’s Minister Gloria de Piero said: “Such an appalling threat of violence isn’t something you hear very often, but uttered by a fellow MP it beggars belief.”

Holly Dustin, director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said: “Michael Fabricant’s threat of violence towards Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is utterly disgraceful. Let’s not forget this is an elected politician who makes laws in this country on women’s safety and equality.”

Mr Fabricant has courted controversy via Twitter before. When the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, was forced to resign in April, he tweeted “about time” – and was sacked from his position as a party vice-chairman.

Last year, he took part in a demonstration in his Lichfield constituency against violence against women. Yesterday, he posted a photograph of himself taken at the demonstration, in which he was wearing a pink shirt and trousers and had a pink boa draped around his neck, and was holding a placard saying: “Real men don’t hit women.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk