‘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
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