A Tory MP has criticized for “making light” of rape allegations against one of his unnamed Conservative colleagues with “grotesque” remarks.
Michael Fabricant said there would be a “strong turnout” of Tories attending Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday to prove they were not the unidentified man, who has been asked by the party to stay away from parliament.
In a tweet, Mr Fabricant, 71, wrote “I’ll be there!” followed by a winking face emoji.
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The man, who is in his 50s, was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.
He was later released on bail.
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart told the BBC that Mr Fabricant’s tweet was “idiotic, it’s insensitive, and it attempts to make light of a really serious situation”.
He added: “I despair when I read stuff like that.”
Angela Rayner, Labor’s deputy Labor leader, said it was “grotesque” and her colleague Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said “this is not a joke”.
Chris Bryant, the Labor MP who chairs the Commons standards committee, said: “This shows absolutely shameful disregard for the alleged victims.
“You should take this down immediately.”
Labor MP Charlotte Nichols said: “One of the grimmest things about working in Westminster is not just the regularity with which allegations of rape and sexual assault come up, but the fact people like Fabricant here trivialize these as a laughing matter or quirky bit of gossip complete with [that] emoji. “
Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect trade union – which represents hundreds of staff working in parliament – told Sky News Mr Fabricant’s tweet was “an extraordinary indictment both on his own judgment and the wider culture for some parliamentarians”.
Mr Fabricant’s original tweet later appeared to have been deleted.
In a subsequent post, he said: “No one is making light of rape or assault. Far from it.
“But those who want to read something into a comment will contrive to do so whatever. They are professional offense takers.”
Earlier in the day Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said it was worrying that “appalling” allegations were again being made about a parliamentarian.