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'Punch' tweet MP avoids punishment

A Conservative MP who suggested he would punch a journalist in the throat has escaped disciplinary action despite calls for him to be kicked out of the party.

Michael Fabricant made the remark about high-profile left-wing journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown after she clashed with right-wing commentator Rod Liddle on a television news programme.

The backbencher, who said he "felt like a star" after news teams turned up at his home to quiz him about the furore, attempted to make amends for his comment, telling Ms Alibhai-Brown she was "utterly infuriating" but he would not have actually punched her.

He later tweeted: "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."

Ms Alibhai-Brown, a Muslim who came to Britain from Uganda in 1972, said the MP could " stuff" his apology , which was "actually making it worse".

She called for the MP to be kicked out of the Conservative Party if he failed to issue a "proper" statement of remorse.

"I think they should withdraw the whip or get him to issue a proper statement," s he told BBC Radio 4's World At One:

"I don't know if you have seen these tweets but if a child did this we would never accept these apologies.

"He's not a child. I hope he's not a member of the EDL (English Defence League).

"Why is he doing this?"

Mr Fabricant caused a Twitter storm and landed in trouble with his party's high command after writing: "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."

David Cameron condemned the comment as "completely unacceptable" but ruled out withdrawing the whip.

He told LBC radio: "Let's be clear, it's a completely unacceptable thing to say and it's right that he apologised and he retracted and he apologised fully. He's now done that, but this should never have been said in the first place. It's not an acceptable thing to say."

Asked whether the Lichfield MP might face any further repercussions, the Prime Minister said: "Well, I think 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 and Michael Fabricant knows that that is my view and I don't want to see this happen again."

Labour's Gloria De Piero, shadow minister for women and equalities, said the comments were "utterly appalling" and it was "unacceptable that views like this persist in the Conservative Party".

Mr Fabricant, a former Tory whip, has long been a thorn in the side of the Conservative leadership and is well known for courting controversy on Twitter.

When it emerged that Flight MH370 had gone missing, he tweeted: ''It occurs to me: All our good news on the economy is currently as submerged and lost as the Malaysian Airlines flight recorder...''

The MP, whose Twitter avatar is a character from figure-skating comedy Blades Of Glory, also reportedly landed in hot water with the Tory hierarchy after joking about having a relationship with a llama.

He tweeted a link to a Times diary story which reported that he was told ''No 10 says it has enough problems with the party in getting equal marriage through without you advocating bestiality'', adding the comment: ''Oh dear. I have told the llama story to one too many ppl. But I couldn't keep a straight face!''

He was sacked as a party vice-chair in April following outspoken criticism of the HS2 rail scheme and the Maria Miller expenses row.

Earlier today he retweeted a message that said the "conservative party are a bunch of tossers, except you Mike", adding: "Now I am no longer Vice Chairman, I can RT that lol!".

Mr Fabricant said he "felt like a star" after a Sky News crew turned up at his home to question him about the row.

"First time I've ever been doorstepped," he said. "I feel like a star."


From Belfast Telegraph