Under pressure to quit: MP Eric Joyce banned from buying alcohol in House of Commons after arrest for alleged second drunken brawl

 

Deputy Political Editor 

The independent MP Eric Joyce was under growing pressure last night to resign his seat after being arrested for the second time in just over a year over an alleged brawl at a parliamentary bar.

John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, announced Mr Joyce would be banned indefinitely from buying alcohol in the 27 places – including eight bars – where it is served at Westminster.

The fracas – which ended with him being restrained by several police officers – looked likely to spell an early end to his political career.

Mr Joyce resigned from Labour last year after being fined £3,000 over the previous incident, but insisted he would continue as the MP for Falkirk until the next election in 2015.

However, both Labour and the Scottish National Party last night suggested he should step down early.

Mr Joyce, who has admitted having a serious drinking problem, also attracted widespread expressions of sympathy from fellow politicians.

A neighbouring Labour MP, Michael Connarty, said Mr Joyce, a former army major, was suffering “combat stress” that had been exacerbated by alcohol and the break-up of his family.

The Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, who is a GP, said: “Eric Joyce is just one of hundreds of thousands who have lost control of their drinking. Westminster is blind to drinking problems.”

Mr Joyce was still in custody yesterday following the altercation on Thursday night at the parliamentary Sports and Social Club where about 150 revellers – mainly researchers and staff – were taking part in a karaoke night.

It is understood to come after a barman told the MP he was not allowed to take his drink to a smoking area outside the club.

An eyewitness, Tony Grew, the parliamentary editor with PoliticsHome.com, said: “Joyce was shoving his way through the crowd quite roughly. From the look on his face it was clear something was going to happen.”

Mr Grew told The Independent: “I saw him with two police officers encouraging him to leave the parliamentary estate … the next I knew he was on the ground with them, a bin was knocked over, a policeman’s helmet was rolling on the ground. It looked to me as if he had one of them in an armlock. At least four or five more officers turned up and held him on the ground.”

Mr Joyce admitted he was lucky to escape jail after a clash last February in the Strangers’ Bar in the Commons in which he headbutted Tory rivals Stuart Andrew and Ben Maney, punched Tory councillor Luke Mackenzie and Labour whip Phillip Wilson and swore at police.

A Tory MP caught up in last year’s fracas, Alec Shelbrooke, said: “I will be talking about it to a number of my colleagues who were involved last time to see if we want to take it further.”

Labour won a majority of nearly 8,000 in Falkirk with Mr Joyce as candidate at the last election. Last night party sources said: "We think the people of Falkirk should have proper representation. There are at least questions about whether Eric Joyce is able to do that.”

A spokesman for the SNP, the main challengers in the constituency, said the MP’s position was “entirely regrettable”. But he added: “Mr Joyce needs to consider his position because the people of Falkirk deserve to have an effective representative in the House of Commons.”

His conduct raised fresh questions last night over whether constituents should be given the power to “recall” errant MPs. Under current rules, they only forfeit their seat automatically if they receive a prison sentence of more than 12 months.

Both Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg have backed the concept of recall, but are yet to announce moves to legislate for it. A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister insisted plans would be announced by 2015.

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