Top Labour figures have called for Tory minister Mark Field to be sacked after he was accused of assault.
In a video posted online, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster and current Foreign Office minister for Asia and the Pacific is seen pushing a climate activist against a wall and grabbing her by the back of the neck.
Field has claimed he was worried that the female protester, who carries only a purse, might have been armed at the black-tie event, according to the BBC.
He has apologised to the woman for “grabbing her” and referred himself to the Cabinet Office for an investigation.
The incident on Thursday night took place after climate crisis protesters interrupted Chancellor Philip Hammond’s annual Mansion House speech on the economy at a dinner in the City.
City of London Police said: “We have had a number of third-party reports of a possible assault. These are being looked into.”
In this longer version of the video, you can see the woman apparently posing no immediate threat as she passes behind Mark Field. He marches her out of the room by her neck. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say she didn’t pose a risk, but it looks heavy handed. pic.twitter.com/zX2BtcPW4t
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) June 20, 2019
Dawn Butler, Labour’s equalities spokesperson, tweeted: “This is horrific… This appears to be assault. He must be immediately suspended or sacked. Due to Violence against women.”
Tonia Antoniazzi, who sits on the women and equalities committee, tweeted: “Mark Field should resign and be arrested. I don’t care in what order. No one who reacts like this to a peaceful protest should be sitting in our parliament.”
Steven Saxby, Labour’s candidate set to challenge Field in the marginal seat at the next election, tweeted: “Unacceptable! I’m sure constituents will share my alarm at this behaviour from our current MP, #MarkField. Shocking use of violence on a peaceful, climate protestor. #ByElectionNow“
Labour MP and shadow minister Clive Lewis tweeted: “Mark Field – MP, in effect, for the Corporation of London. An ancient, vastly rich and powerful anachronism much like the Mansion House Speech itself. A constituency where businesses in the square mile get almost double the votes of ordinary residents. This is vested power.”
Opposition frontbencher Louise Haigh retweeted Ayesha Hazarika: “Why hasn’t he been sacked yet? If @Jeremy_Hunt wants to be PM, he needs to make decisions swiftly. His team will have seen it. This is disgusting thuggery. All on camera. No excuses. And it’s actually not that difficult an issue. Unless you’re cool with violence against women.”
Field has been suspended as a minister. A 10 Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has seen the footage and she found it very concerning.”
Asked what he made of the video earlier today, Jeremy Hunt said: “I think it’s not for me to make a judgement because I wasn’t there to appreciate the context.”
Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General commented: “While it is a relief that Mark Field has been suspended from government, he must be suspended from the Conservative Party and the whip pending the disciplinary process and any police investigation following criminal complaints.
“The distressing camera footage clearly demonstrates that the minister was not acting in self-defence and “acting instinctively” is no defence if your instincts come from a sense of entitlement and violent disdain for a young woman engaged in peaceful protest at a political event.
“Jeremy Hunt, Mark Field’s boss, has refused to condemn his actions and Boris Johnson remains silent. We have a right to know what the candidates to be our next Prime Minister think about the actions of a Foreign Minister, who should be setting a better example in relation to the treatment of women and protesters on the world stage.”