Saturday, March 10, 2012

a wee scuffly thing

What a man! I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.
The Labour backbencher Eric Joyce told police officers “you can’t touch me, I’m an MP” after drunkenly assaulting four fellow politicians in a House of Commons bar, a court heard yesterday.


The MP for Falkirk cried out “there are too many Tories in the bar” before aiming punches and headbutts at Stuart Andrew, a Conservative MP, and two Tory councillors. He then attacked the Labour whip Phil Wilson, who had attempted to calm his colleague down.


When the police arrived, Joyce landed a final headbutt on Mr Andrew in front of officers. The former Army major later wrote garbled notes in a police notebook about living in a “Tory nation”.


Mr Andrew claimed Joyce was “drunker than anyone he had ever seen in his life”, adding that “his eyes looked like no one was home”.


Full details of the brawl were disclosed yesterday as Joyce pleaded guilty to four charges of assault at Westminster magistrates’ court. The MP was spared a prison sentence and was instead fined £3,000, banned from pubs for three months and ordered to pay compensation to his victims. Having been suspended by Labour since the incident, he is now certain to be expelled from the party.


The attacks took place on Wednesday Feb 22 in the taxpayer-subsidised Strangers’ Bar. Joyce, a philosophy graduate who has been an MP since 2000, had spent the evening drinking with two friends, Stuart Niven and Catherine Beachley, the court heard. At about 10.30pm, Mr Niven, an amateur opera singer, began singing “very loudly”.


Alec Shelbrooke, the Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell, apparently glanced at the table “in bemusement” and was approached by an angry Joyce who told him: “Don’t ever look at any of my guests in that way again.”


Andrew Percy, the Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, then asked Joyce if he could get by to reach his table, only to be told: “No, you f------ can’t.”


Joyce, who had drunk a bottle of wine, then shouted: “There are too many Tories in this bar … this bar is full of f------ Tories!” Mr Andrew, the MP for Pudsey, responded: “You can’t behave in that way,” after which Joyce grabbed him by the tie. Mr Shelbrooke then said: “You don’t treat an MP like that in a place like this”, causing Joyce to aim a punch at him, but miss. That prompted Luke MacKenzie, a Conservative councillor who was drinking with the Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price, to intervene.


Joyce punched Mr Mackenzie on the nose and the mouth before Ben Maney, a Conservative councillor who was at the same table as Mr Mackenzie, tried to restrain him.


Joyce headbutted Mr Maney who stumbled away “looking as white as a sheet and completely shocked”, Zoe Martin, prosecuting, told the court. She added that one of the victims later said that Joyce’s eyes “looked dead. He looked possessed and completely out of it”.


Phil Wilson, the Labour whip, then put a hand on his colleague’s shoulder and said: “Calm down, Eric. What’s going on?” Joyce spun around and punched him on the chin, causing him to fall into a chair, the court heard.


The attacks stopped briefly when Mrs Doyle-Price put herself between Joyce and the others and said: “If you are going to punch my staff, punch me first. You don’t want to hit a lady.”


Police arrived to find tables and chairs upturned. Mr Andrew told police that Joyce had assaulted him and, when the officer asked if this was true, Joyce headbutted Mr Andrew. He then told officers: “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP.” As he was led away, Joyce kicked a glass door, breaking a pane and swore at officers, the court heard.


At Belgravia police station, Joyce “alternated between being calm and apologetic to aggressive and abusive”, and at one stage had to be restrained by several officers, said Miss Martin, He also wrote a message in an officer’s notebook, which read: “Meant to include this for the moment. We are a Tory nation. That cannot be forever. Good cops tonight but it is [missing word] surely to hate the Tories.”


The next day he was interviewed and said he remembered little of the incident. He said he recalled some “noisy young Tories” in the bar and “some kind of misunderstanding”, adding: “I nutted a guy, it was a wee scuffly thing.” He went on: “I think he was a silly fat Tory MP. He was pushing like a girl and giving me a bear hug.”
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