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An allegation of rape against a Tory MP was made by a male politician who was a teenager when they first met, The Telegraph understands, amid growing pressure on the Conservative Party to name him.
The MP was released on police bail on Wednesday.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader and former director of public prosecutions, on Wednesday backed calls for the Conservative MP to be publicly identified.
His name - as well as those of MPs misidentified - has been widely circulating on social media. The confusion prompted one MP falsely identified on social media to make a show of remaining in Parliament, enjoying lunch on the Commons terrace.
The MP was arrested on suspicion of rape, sexual assault and indecent assault as well as abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office. The alleged sexual offences are reported to have been committed between 2002 and 2009, according to the Metropolitan Police.
The Telegraph understands that the MP first met the alleged victim, 20 years his junior, when he was a teenager. At the time, the MP was in his 30s.
It is claimed the two men became friends but fell out in 2019, according to a number of sources familiar with the case. In January 2020, police received a report “relating to alleged sexual offences having been committed between 2002 and 2009”, which are said to have occurred in London. Police spent the day on Wednesday with the alleged victim at his home.
‘Taking action is the right thing to do’
The Telegraph has been told that the MP is facing an allegation from a single complainant and that no other alleged victims have come forward.
Sir Keir’s spokesman said at a briefing on Wednesday that the MP in question should be stripped of the party whip, given the gravity of the allegations.
The spokesman noted that would “inevitably” lead to the person being named publicly, but added: “Taking action is the right thing to do.”
One senior Conservative Party source said: “The relationship between the MP and the young man was well known in his local party circles, well known in regional party circles, and well known at Conservative Campaign Headquarters. Everyone knew about it because it had been going on for years.”
A second source who worked for the MP said: “I can honestly say I never saw anything that gave me any suspicion that he was doing anything inappropriate. I was very, very surprised when I saw the rumours that are circulating.”
Accusations ‘very hard to believe’
A Conservative borough councillor and long-standing party member who has known the arrested MP for many years said she would also vouch for his character “any day of the week”.
The councillor said: “I have known him for a long, long time and what I’m reading about is not the man I know. He’s just not capable of this.
“I would vouch for him as a character any day of the week. I know the parliamentary authorities and the police have to carry out their investigations, but it’s just not him and I find the accusations very hard to believe.”
She added: “I have known him for more than 20 years and he is a sincere, loyal and caring man - and the hardest working MP I’ve ever known.”
The Tory whips office has decided that it will not immediately remove the whip from the MP in question or name them to protect any alleged victims, instead taking a decision once the investigation is complete.
The MP has been asked by Chris Heaton-Harris, the Tory Chief Whip, to stay away from Parliament while the investigation is ongoing but is not bound to do so.
That position from the Tory Party is coming under growing scrutiny, with some figures involved in standards in politics going public with criticism.
Rita Dexter, a lay member of the House of Commons Standards Committee, shared her views on Twitter on how the developments had been handled in Westminster, writing “the whole thing is a calamity”.
She tweeted: “It’s all very well to ask him to stay away, but what about the many constituency venues where that is not applicable? What consideration has been applied to those?”
Jenny Symmonds, the chairman of the GMB union’s wing that looks after MPs’ staff, said in a statement: “The GMB will continue to push for individuals being investigated for sexual misconduct to be banned automatically from the estate. Staff safety must be the absolute priority and no chances should be taken.”
The Prime Minister's press secretary told reporters that Boris Johnson was "shocked to learn of these allegations".
But she batted away questions about why MPs had previously been suspended by the Tories during investigations but the same approach was not being taken with the arrested politician.
She said: "I appreciate there will be a lot of questions on this topic but while there is an ongoing investigation I hope you will understand that it won't be appropriate for me to comment on that specific question.”
The spokeswoman said that if the MP was charged, they could expect to "lose the whip".
Meanwhile, Tory MP Michael Fabricant has been accused of treating the arrest as a "laughing matter".
The long-standing MP tweeted that there would be a "strong turnout" of Tories attending Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday to prove they are not the unidentified man told to stay away from Parliament.
"I'll be there!" Mr Fabricant added, followed by the "winking face with tongue" emoji.
He defended the tweet after a dressing down by the Tory whips and a Cabinet minister criticising the "idiotic" remarks for making "light of a really serious situation", but subsequently deleted the post.
The Met Police said in a statement: “In January 2020, the Met received a report relating to alleged sexual offences having been committed between 2002 and 2009.
“The offences are alleged to have occurred in London.
“An investigation is ongoing, led by officers from Central Specialist Crime. A man, aged in his 50s, was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.
“He was taken into custody and has since been bailed pending further enquiries to a date in mid-June.”