Mark Field: MP who grabbed female protester by neck stands down over Brexit

Former Foreign Office minister hits out ‘fractious, febrile and deeply divisive aftermath’ of vote to leave EU

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Friday 18 October 2019 15:20
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The MP for the Cities of London and Westminster said his desire to stop a No Deal Brexit and revoke Article 50 to restart the two-year clock put him 'at odds' with the current Boris Johnson government
The MP for the Cities of London and Westminster said his desire to stop a No Deal Brexit and revoke Article 50 to restart the two-year clock put him 'at odds' with the current Boris Johnson government

A Conservative MP who faced fierce criticism after he grabbed a female environmental protester by the neck has announced he will not stand in the next election due to Brexit.

Mark Field hit out at the “fractious, febrile and deeply divisive aftermath” of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016 – saying his views “stand at odds with the current administration’s impatient approach to getting Brexit done”.

The MP for the Cities of London and Westminster said his desire to stop a no-deal Brexit and revoke Article 50 to restart the two-year clock put him “at odds” with Boris Johnson’s government.

“It is increasingly clear that divisions over Brexit and our future relationship with the EU-27 will dominate and define domestic politics for many years to come,” he said in a statement.

He added: “So the current speculation that a general election may be imminent has forced me to reach the very difficult decision not to offer myself as your candidate for the next election.”

Mr Field, who said he would support Mr Johnson’s deal, was fired as a minister after violently grabbing a Greenpeace protester.

Video footage shows Janet Barker, who has been campaigning for more than two decades, walking past the former Foreign Office minister’s table when he stands up, shoves her against a column and then forces her out of the room by the neck.

The incident took place after a number of environmental demonstrators disrupted the annual Mansion House dinner for senior city executives where Phillip Hammond, the former chancellor, was speaking.

Mr Field was suspended by the former prime minister, Theresa May, after the saga and then sacked when Mr Johnson succeeded her.

Mr Johnson then faced criticism for dropping the Whitehall investigation into Mr Field’s treatment of the protester – with some arguing the politician should have been kicked out of the Conservative Party immediately.

Jenn Selby, who is standing for the Women’s Equality Party in his constituency, said: “Our activists were out last night to make it clear that harassment and violence against women must no longer be tolerated in Westminster or anywhere else.

“Mark Field shoved a peaceful protester against a pillar and aggressively grabbed her by the neck and yet the Conservatives did not finish an investigation into his behaviour or prevent him from standing again. By turning a blind eye to incidents like this they are sending the message that violence against women and girls doesn’t matter. I decided to stand against him at the next general election to make it clear that it does.

“I welcome the news that he has decided not to seek re-election and am glad he has clearly heard our repeated calls for him to step down, but the fact that it was left up to him to decide that is simply not good enough. All parties need to take responsibility for the harassment and abuse of women, in their own ranks and elsewhere.”

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Chuka Umunna, a former Labour MP who has now joined the Liberal Democrats, had said he will stand in the constituency at the next general election.

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