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Suspended Tory MP says party decision was ‘wrong and unjustified’

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A senior Conservative MP who has been suspended from the party following a complaint to London’s Metropolitan Police force has accused the Conservatives of depriving his right to anonymity and “fair hearing”.

The Conservative party confirmed on Wednesday evening that Julian Knight, who serves as the chair of the House of Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, had been suspended from the party after a complaint was submitted to the Met Police.

“Following a complaint made to the Metropolitan Police this evening, we have removed the whip from Julian Knight MP with immediate effect,” said a spokesperson for Simon Hart, government chief whip.

The suspension of Knight follows a series of scandals involving members of parliament that have resulted in their being suspended from their party and led to calls for a clean up of the culture at Westminster.

In a letter to the Whips office published on Twitter on Thursday evening, Knight said that he had “heard nothing” from the police, the Conservative party whips office or parliament’s internal grievance service. He added that he had not been subject to an investigation by the latter.

The MP challenged why he had been suspended and publicly named by the Whips and questioned whether his “arbitrary and wrongful suspension” was related to a third party complaint made by two of his parliamentary colleagues on October 28 of this year.

Knight argued that by “unilaterally and publicly” suspending the whip that party had deprived him of “rights to anonymity or a fair hearing in any judicial forum or, indeed, in the court of public opinion”.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, I can state categorically that I am entirely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever,” he wrote. “It seems lamentable and completely wrong that I have to make this statement after the public linking of my good name as a Conservative MP with an apparently serious but entirely unspecified offence.”

Earlier in the day, Knight, who was elected in 2015 to represent the constituency of Solihull in the West Midlands, also said that he had received what his legal team described as “explicit threats involving blackmail”, adding that he was the “centre of a campaign of rumour and innuendo”. He would recuse himself from parliament until the matter was resolved, he added.

“On 28 October, police received allegations of serious sexual assault against unnamed victims reported to have taken place on unknown dates at undisclosed locations,” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said.

“On 7 December a further referral relating to the incident[s] was made and an investigation was launched. Inquiries are ongoing. There have been no arrests.”

In recent months, a handful of Tory MPs have had the whip removed. Conor Burns was sacked as junior trade minister in October after a formal complaint was made about his behaviour at the Conservative party conference. Burns was reinstated this week after being cleared of misconduct.

In June, former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher had the whip removed and resigned from his government position after admitting that he had “embarrassed himself and other people” at a private members’ club.

In April, David Warburton, Tory MP for Somerton and Frome, had the whip removed after an investigation was launched by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme following allegations of sexual harassment.

The Labour party has also been forced to remove the whip from a handful of its MPs. Rupa Huq, the MP for Ealing Central and Acton in London, was removed from the party in September for describing the then chancellor as “superficially” black.

Meanwhile, Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North in the north of England, has been suspended by Labour, a development first reported by the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday evening.

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