Following reports that a Tory MP had been arrested and bailed on suspicion of rape, and that the Conservatives would neither name nor suspend the man, Twitter users have been speculating on potential suspects.
Mainstream media describe the alleged rapist as ‘a former minister in his 50’s’ – and Twitter’s top target was definitely Rayleigh & Wickford MP Mark ‘Bunter’ Francois, 54, who has held no less than 4 ministerial positions since 2010.
“Mark Francois is trending at the exact same time as #ToryRapist. I’m sure it’s entirely coincidental” one user tweeted.
“Be careful linking Penfold lookalike to the hashtag #ToryRapist. Legal action is being taken by Penfold as he doesn’t want to be linked to a disgusting Tory like Mark” quipped another.
One account even claimed that the MP had been spotted at a police station on the day of the arrest, but this has not been confirmed.
Why Francois – who did not even feature on the 2017 list of 40 Conservative MPs accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour in Parliament – was the favourite suspect is a mystery, but favourite he most certainly was! Perhaps it could be that the alleged multiple offences took place in Westminster and ‘other locations in London’ and Francois, whose constituency is just 45 minutes away by train, clearly likes staying in the capital. So much, in fact, that he has spent almost £24,000 of taxpayers’ money on London hotels in the last 3 years...
A train ticket would cost just £14 – even a taxi, at £91, would come in at a substantially lower cost to the public purse than a hotel.
Presumably he prefers the luxury hotel environment to staying with his partner, who he recently claimed to be ‘an NHS radiographer working in London’, although the identity of the lucky lady is not known - certainly no female has come forward to confirm or deny the relationship.
At the height of the furore of speculation, it was even believed that the MP had deleted his social media accounts, although this has proved to be incorrect – he has never had a Twitter account, and an unavailable Facebook page turned out to belong to a different man with the same name.
Mr Francois has not made any public comment on the Twitter remarks – not even to suggest he might ‘get Dom down there to sort them out’.
And we’d have thought that if he was to have any kind of aberrant sexual proclivities, they might be more along the lines of dressing up - well, he does like a uniform...
The arrested MP has been bailed until a date in August, but the party has refused to suspend him. It has since transpired that the alleged victim, a former parliamentary staffer, had raised concerns about his behaviour with Chief Whip Mark Spencer as long ago as April – it is believed that she finally went to police after becoming frustrated at the party’s inaction.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party has said the alleged incidents are "serious" and "it is right that they are investigated fully". However it has said the MP concerned would not have the whip withdrawn and could still sit in the House of Commons.
And, presumably, be free to interact with any and all female staff working on the Parliamentary estate...
The above article is in no way intended to suggest that Mark Francois is the MP who was arrested, or that he is guilty of any offence.