‘Trial by What­sApp’ is not ac­cept­able, says MP Fabri­cant Politi­cian calls for Par­lia­ment to dis­credit smears against the in­no­cent as his name ap­pears on list

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jonathan Walker Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

AMIDLAND MP has ve­he­mently de­nied any wrong­do­ing af­ter he was re­port­edly named on a list of Tory MPs who were al­legedly ac­cused of in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­iour.

Michael Fabri­cant con­firmed his name ap­peared on the list, pub­lished on­line. He told the Post’s sis­ter ti­tle, the Lich­field Mer­cury, he was ac­cused of “be­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate with a male jour­nal­ist in a taxi” – but knew noth­ing of the al­leged in­ci­dent.

Mr Fabri­cant spoke af­ter Tory aides re­port­edly com­piled a list of 36 MPs, in­clud­ing six cabi­net mem­bers, ac­cused of lurid be­hav­iour.

Brand­ing the re­ported list a “strange mix of ru­mour and gos­sip”, the Lich­field MP said nei­ther he nor West­min­ster lobby cor­re­spon­dents he had asked knew any­thing of the claim said to in­volve him.

“I have seen the spread­sheet which is on so­cial me­dia,” said Mr Fabri­cant.

“It only lists Con­ser­va­tive MPs, which is odd in it­self, and is a strange mix­ture of ru­mour and gos­sip.

“No-one seems to know who pre­pared this bizarre list of ac­cu­sa­tions.

“Among other ac­cu­sa­tions made against many other MPs, it is claimed there was a sin­gle in­ci­dent where I was ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate with a male jour­nal­ist in a taxi’.

“But what does that mean? Was it a joke which was rude or risqué that I told? Did I chal­lenge him on jour­nal­ists’ ex­pense ac­counts?

“If it were any­thing re­ally news­wor­thy, surely the jour­nal­ist would have writ­ten it up as a juicy story?

“What a scoop! But it wasn’t. There has been noth­ing re­ported about this. I even checked with jour­nal­ists in the Par­lia­men­tary Press Gallery which is a hot-bed of gos­sip.

“But they know noth­ing about it ei­ther. When was this sup­posed to have hap­pened? For the life of me, I can­not re­call hav­ing been in a taxi with a jour­nal­ist re­cently, though doubt­less I must have been over the last 25 years in Par­lia­ment.”

Be­fore speak­ing pub­licly, Mr Fabri­cant tweeted: “A jour­nal­ist in the back of a taxi? You’ve got to be kid­ding.”

Mr Fabri­cant said there needed to be an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­tiga­tive body “which can as­sess ac­cu­sa­tions, pun­ish guilty MPs, but also dis­credit any­one who smears an MP merely for party po­lit­i­cal or other rea­sons”.

“It is as im­por­tant to ex­on­er­ate the in­no­cent as well as pun­ish the guilty in these days when any­one can pub­lish any­thing on so­cial me­dia and get away with it,” he said.

“This is some­thing I made clear to the Leader of the House, An­drea Lead­som, in Par­lia­ment a cou­ple of days ago.

“If we do not, Par­lia­ment will be dis­cred­ited when, I be­lieve, most MPs are hard­work­ing and de­cent peo­ple – and the in­no­cent will have had their lives ru­ined. This is not ac­cept­able in a modern democ­racy.”

Mr Fabri­cant, a for­mer Con­ser­va­tive whip, said he first dis­cov­ered his name was on the list on Mon­day.

“Chan­nel 4 phoned me on Mon­day and said I was on the list.,” he said. “At the time I was meet­ing some­one, and I was just in­cred­u­lous.”

A re­searcher then sent him a copy of the list with the names of the MPs blanked out, but the al­le­ga­tions vis­i­ble. Mr Fabri­cant read through it try­ing to work out which one was sup­posed to be him.

“Then on Tues­day, some­body sent me a copy of the full list with all the MPs’ names vis­i­ble, and I saw what I was be­ing ac­cused of.

“It just seems re­mark­able that a jour­nal­ist of all peo­ple wouldn’t be able to de­fend him­self phys­i­cally and ver­bally, let alone write an ar­ti­cle about it. The whole thing is a big mys­tery to me.”

But Mr Fabri­cant said the list – which orig­i­nally came from What­sApp con­ver­sa­tions and was then pub­lished as a spread­sheet – was “unac­cept­able”.

He said: “I think some­one had speak out about this.”

“The prob­lem with this spread­sheet is that it de­tracts from gen­uine abuse that un­doubt­edly oc­curs in the Palace of West­min­ster, as it does in most large or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“As the Speaker has al­ready said, abuse can­not be tol­er­ated. And I agree.

“How­ever, trial by What­sApp is not jus­tice and is also unac­cept­able.”

It is as im­por­tant to ex­on­er­ate the in­no­cent as well as pun­ish the guilty in these days when any­one can pub­lish any­thing


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