Conservative whips have remonstrated with the Tory MP Michael Fabricant over a tweet in which he appeared to make light of the arrest of a colleague over allegations of rape and sexual assault.
It emerged on Tuesday that an unnamed Conservative MP had been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of a position of trust and misconduct in public office.
The MP in question, a man in his 50s, has been asked by Conservative whips, who deal with party discipline, not to attend the House of Commons while he remains under investigation.
Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield, tweeted that he was expecting a good turnout at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, not just to back Boris Johnson, but “also to prove they are NOT the one told by the chief whip to stay at home. I’ll be there!” with a winking face emoji.
Colleagues including the Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the Commons standards committee, urged Fabricant to take the tweet down. “It shows callous disregard for the alleged victims, and it implies rape and sexual assault are a laughing matter,” he said.
Sources in the Conservative whips’ office indicated that Fabricant had been spoken to by whips about the tweet, which they suggested was inappropriate.
Fabricant later tweeted: “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 offence takers.” His original message remained online.
The arrest of the Conservative MP followed a two-year investigation, Metropolitan police said, and related to offences alleged to have been committed between 2002 and 2009. The MP was released on bail, police said on Wednesday morning.
The arrest came as the date was set for two byelections triggered by the resignation of Conservative MPs. Imran Ahmad Khan, the former MP for Wakefield, was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy; while the former Tiverton MP Neil Parish admitted watching pornography in the House of Commons chamber.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, began prime minister’s questions by warning MPs not to name the individual in question.