A senior politician from Britain’s ruling Conservative Party was forced to apologize Friday after saying he wanted to punch a Muslim woman in the throat.
Michael Fabricant, who was the party’s chairman until April, said he found a particular female journalist so infuriating that he would be unable to control himself if he was to appear on a political show with her.
The extraordinary outburst was directed at Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a political pundit who moved to Britain from Uganda in 1972. She took part in a heated debate over the nature of British values on Channel 4 News on Thursday night, and it apparently sent Fabricant into a rage.
The 64-year-old MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire expressed his disgust in a message posted on Twitter on Friday morning. “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,” Fabricant wrote.
As a wave of revulsion spread across the internet, he began to backtrack. “Sorry @y-alibhai if you actually thought I would punch you. I actually don’t do that sort of thing. But you are utterly infuriating! xx,” he wrote.
Alibhai-Brown was far from impressed by Fabricant’s incredulous recantation. “This is his apology? As an elected Member of Parliament, [he] thinks it’s ok to say that he would punch me in the throat because he didn’t like what I said,” she said during a lunchtime appearance on BBC Radio 4. “Well, he can stuff it.”
The televised exchange that started the row had become increasingly testy when Alibhai-Brown’s fellow guest, Rod Liddle, denied he was “a bigot” but accepted that he had a largely unfavorable view of Islam.
“I don’t have the words to express how much I loathe you,” Alibhai-Brown said. “I’m quite proud that I’m able to tell you that.”
Seated opposite her, Liddle remained calm. Fabricant was clearly unable to do so.
When television news crews showed up at his house to ask about the outburst, he said he “felt like a star.” He later wrote on Twitter: “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.”
This is hardly the first time Fabricant has found himself in trouble because of an enthusiasm to share his views. He was fired as party chairman by Prime Minister David Cameron in April for his outspoken criticism of a rail infrastructure project and the handling of an expenses scandal involving a senior woman MP.
“This is his apology? As an elected Member of Parliament, [he] thinks it’s ok to say that he would punch me in the throat because he didn’t like what I said. Well, he can stuff it.”
If anything, that seemed to encourage him to be even more forthright on Twitter. When Flight MH370 went missing, he complained that the story was making it harder to secure positive economic coverage. “It occurs to me: All our good news on the economy is currently as submerged and lost as the Malaysian Airlines flight recorder,” he wrote.
Fabricant no longer holds an official post within the Conservative Party, but Alibhai-Brown called on Cameron to withdraw the party whip from the MP but the prime minister refused to take action.
“Let’s be clear, it’s a completely unacceptable thing to say and it’s right that he apologized and he retracted,” Cameron told LBC radio in London. “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.”
Gloria De Piero, the Labour Party’s shadow minister for women and equalities, said Cameron should have gone further. “I had to re-read it when I first saw it. Such an appalling threat of violence isn’t something you hear very often, but uttered by a fellow Member of Parliament it beggars belief,” she wrote on the Independent newspaper website. “As Leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron has a responsibility to act in this instance and to make clear that there is no home for such views within the Conservatives.”