Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has called on Michael Fabricant to resign after the Conservative MP tweeted that he would end up “punching her in the throat” if he were ever to appear on a discussion programme with her.
Ms Alibhai-Brown, a journalist and author, appeared on a segment with The Spectator columnist Rod Liddle for Channel 4 on Thursday evening to discuss race, religion and British values, which quickly developed into a heated debate.
The next morning, the Conservative MP for Lichfield tweeted: “I could never appear on a discussion prog with @y_alibhai I would either end up with a brain haemorrhage or by punching her in the throat,” immediately drawing a furious backlash from Twitter and criticism from the higher echelons of the Tory party, including the Prime Minister David Cameron.
He also courted controversy by retweeting a post by another account calling for Ms Alibhai-Brown, who came to the UK from Uganda in 1972, to “be deported”.
Ms Alibhai-Brown has since asked what kind of example Mr Fabricant was setting as an elected member of parliament.
She told The Independent: “It is a complete shock that an interview with someone who is a polemicist on Channel 4, which wasn’t at all ugly, makes an MP from a ruling party say what he said.”
“I mean, what is he saying, that it is ok to fantasise about and want to beat up a woman because she expressed a view?”
After initially defending his tweet to this newspaper, Mr Fabricant later wrote on Twitter: “If anyone believes I would seriously threaten someone with violence, I of course withdraw and apologise” – a response that Ms Alibhai-Brown said was “even worse because he didn’t actually apologise”.
She added: “To him an Asian woman should be selling cigarettes in a shop and cooking curries and can’t be out there like me.
@Mike_Fabricant the tweet was offensive & your 'apology' useless. Tories like you think people like me should be ayahs or selling you curry; Yasmin alibhai-brown (@y_alibhai) June 20, 2014
So just for the avoidance of any doubt: I am v sorry for tweet. It was wrong to joke abt punching + I completely withdraw and apologise.; Michael Fabricant (@Mike_Fabricant) June 20, 2014
“It was not an apology – it’s almost worse, and it is not acceptable. A few years ago, a Tory councillor tweeted that I should be stoned to death – this is becoming a tradition obviously and they [the Conservative party] have to do more than ask for an apology.”
Mr Fabricant went on to make a more full apology on Twitter, writing: "So just for the avoidance of any doubt: I am v sorry for tweet. It was wrong to joke abt punching + I completely withdraw and apologise”.
Downing Street was quick to distance itself from Mr Fabricant’s comment, and later reinforced their displeasure at his remark with: "The Prime Minister thinks that Michael Fabricant's comments were completely unacceptable and in poor taste.”
"There is never any excuse for suggesting violence."
According to Ms Alibhai-Brown, Mr Fabricant has not attempted to contact her directly, apart from via social media. “I would not speak to him even if he tried to contact me. I get enough threats every day of my life, for him to validate that is simply unacceptable.
“I was on Channel 4 with Rod Liddle – hardly a pussy cat – it's ok for Liddle to say all sort of things about black and Asian people, but it’s not ok for me to talk back?
“I think he should resign. They should at least withdraw the whip. I think people are really shocked, and women’s groups are up in arms.
“We are trying to deal with violence against women, and I can just see it – a wife speaks up and a husband thinks its ok to punch her in the face – it is so obvious to see what is wrong with what he said.
“It is not about (being metaphorical) it is about what as a member of Parliament you are saying to those who elected you and to the rest of the world.
"It just shows they expect people like me to be their servants, and servicing their needs, and not to have equal rights as we speak- they really haven’t moved on."