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Michael Fabricant: my 20-year record has been undone by a tweet about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

23 June 2014

Tony Blair, when Leader of the Opposition, berated Prime Minister John Major across the Dispatch Box: ‘The Tories are racists, misogynists, homophobes and xenophobes’ he claimed. I shouted from the backbenches ‘I’m not!’ and Blair agreed. I had already voted for greater rights for women seeking an abortion, lowering the age of homosexual consent to 16 and for improving the rights of immigrants in the UK. I was a social liberal when it was unfashionable in the Conservative Party to be so, and I am still one now.

Yet on Friday, I tweeted something that cannot be excused and something for which I am still deeply embarrassed and ashamed. I immediately apologised as soon as I realised my mistake. In just 140 characters, I appeared to have undone a 20 year voting record that demonstrated what I believe and how passionately I feel about these issues.

So what I tweeted cannot be excused and was simply wrong. Of course I do not—and have never—believed that it is acceptable for a man to hit a woman, or a man come to that (or even joke about doing so).


Since leaving the Government I have been described as being one of the most prolific tweeters out there. At last count I have sent over 23,000 tweets. I use it for a number of reasons: primarily to try and prove that not all politicians are programmed robots who just espouse straplines and have their photos taken at village fetes. This is important, because so many people do not believe in politicians and they certainly do not believe in our politics. If they tweet me, I more often than not tweet them back. Quite often, that has meant being risqué and sometimes tweeting a lot of nonsense. But my 17,000 followers understand this and they retweet me sometimes reaching 2.5 million people in just one week.

Yet I have been shocked. Some of what I have read about me over the past few days is a distorted extrapolation of just one tweet and an exaggerated and misleading stereotype of what some people wish to believe a Conservative MP is like. And like Chinese whispers, I am now being quoted as tweeting comments that I have never made.

There is an instantaneousness about Twitter which means that once the button is pressed, there is no going back. I made a mistake not only in what I said last Friday, but in the fact that I naively thought people reading the tweet would know who I was and what I truly stand for. I hoped that those who read the tweet carefully would understand that, bad though it undoubtedly was to mention assault, it was totally hypothetical, with circumstances that would never arise, besides, that I am just not like that. I was wrong.

The Prime Minister once joked that too many tweets make a… and on this occasion he is most certainly right.

I won’t stop tweeting because of one mistake, but I do ask to be judged on my record and on what I actually believe. And to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, I do hope you will eventually accept my sincere apology,

One day, I hope we might debate each other, because I think it would be a lot of fun. You never know. I might surprise you. We might actually agree on rather a lot.

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  • 123db

    She is the racist, and you apologize? The Political Correct experiment has completed successfully! :-)

  • Chris Kimberley

    so why did you say you’d punch her in the throat,was it just a ‘joke’ ?

  • Realismista

    Mr Fabricant has made the right call. Not because he is “caving in to a twitter storm” etc, which I do not believe is his motivation. But, as he has admitted, he should not have tweeted what he did about Ms A-B. Why? Because he is an elected MP, not some Spectator or Breitbart blogger or an anonymous commenter below the line who does this kind of thing partly in order to provoke a reaction and then easily dismisses it as “coming with the online territory”.

    No. We expect certain – higher – standards of discourse from our elected representatives, not the language of abusive internet trolls.

    Mr Fabricant has also realised just how damaging that tweet could have been….to himself. Why? Because, for many people, that tweet is now *all* they know about him. And, despite the praise his tweet received from some quarters, there will have been many who will have been equally turned off by it.

    That tweet was also mistaken because whatever opinion one has of Ms A-B, she has never, as far as I know, used similar language against a named individual. She is frequently the recipient of very personal insults that are no real substitute for engaging in proper debate with her ideas and arguments, many of which are, in any case, so overstated and flimsy that they are easy to defeat without the use of abuse.

    • Max07

      She did tell Rod Liddle she loathed him. If he’d said that to her there would have been a God almighty hoo-ha by now.

      • Realismista

        Well, it’s a good job he didn’t otherwise he would have sunk to her level. The fact that she said she loathed him had absolutely no impact whatsoever apart from on herself: it made her look ridiculous and emotional. Own goal. Rod Liddle rose above it and added to her discomfiture: she probably wanted Liddle to rise to the bait: he didn’t. Liddle won 2-0 (he scored a goal and she scored an own goal).

  • ADW

    What’s the point? Everyone knows you didn’t mean it literally; it was just a badly phrased joke. Now you’ve given YAB a free shot, which she won’t miss. It is typical of the left – attack the bad phrasing but ignore the real point. Just like when Rod Liddle complained about a brutal attack by some thugs; because he said it in un-PC terms, he became the target of a torrent of outrage. Not a word about the thugs or their victim; neither was of interest to the left at all.

  • Max07

    YAB isn’t going to accept your apology. She hasn’t the grace, and in any case she’s a professional offence-taker. It’s a pretty thin job description, when you come to think of it, but it is nonetheless one that has provided her with an excellent living for a very long time. Do me a favour and ignore her. It’s what she fears most.

  • jamesdelingpole

    Stop apologising. I did once and it was a huge mistake. Just gives succour to a vengeful enemy.

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