A Conservative MP is facing a growing backlash after being accused of treating the arrest of a Tory colleague on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offences as a “laughing matter”.
In a now-deleted tweet, Fabricant said: "I am expecting a strong turnout of Conservative MPs at Prime Minister's Questions today.
"Not only to demonstrate their strong support for Boris (!!). BUT also to prove they are NOT the one told by the Chief Whip to stay at home. I'll be there!"
Fabricant accompanied his tweet with a smiling emoji, sticking its tongue out.
His comments were described as "grotesque" and "appalling", and the long-standing MP was accused of making light of the scale of sexual abuse in parliament.
On Tuesday night, it emerged that an unnamed Conservative MP had been arrested on suspicion of rape, indecent assault, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.
Labour MP Charlotte Nichols said: “One of the grimmest things about working in Westminster is not just the regularity with which allegations of rape and sexual assault come up, but the fact people like Fabricant here trivialise these as a laughing matter or quirky bit of gossip complete with emoji[s].”
The alleged offences by the male Tory MP in his 50s, who has not been identified, are said to have taken place from 2002 to 2009.
The suspect was released on Wednesday morning on bail pending further enquiries, but has been asked to remain away from the parliamentary estate while the investigation is ongoing.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said his tweet was "grotesque", while Labour MP Mike Amesbury said: "This is both inappropriate and appalling."
Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said: "Rape and sexual violence — alleged or proven — are not subjects for comic banter
Fabricant denied claims he was "making light" of the allegations, saying those who had criticised him were "professional offence takers."
He later tweeted: "No-one is making light of rape or assault. Far from it.
"But those who want to read something into a comment will contrive to do so whatever. They are professional offence takers."
The arrest came amid renewed scrutiny of sleaze in Westminster following a string of cases.
Last month it was revealed 56 MPs, including three members of the Cabinet, were under investigation by the House of Commons for sexual misconduct.
There have also been a number of recent convictions. Former Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan quit the Commons earlier this month after being convicted of sexually assaulting a boy.
In April, David Warburton had the Conservative whip withdrawn after allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use emerged.
Over the past year, around 15 MPs are suspected to have been investigated by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) watchdog that examines allegations of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.
Neil Parish stood down as the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton earlier this month after admitting watching pornography in the Commons.
In July 2020, the then Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against two women and sentenced to two years in prison.
In December 2021, a family court ruled the former Tory minister Andrew Griffiths was found to have raped and physically abused his wife.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has discouraged MPs from attempting to name the Tory MP at the centre of the current allegations, describing it as "wholly inappropriate" while the investigation is ongoing.