Bob Stewart has surrendered the Conservative whip while he considers an appeal of his conviction for a racially aggravated public order offence, a government source has said.
The Beckenham MP was found guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday of racially abusing an activist by telling him to “go back to Bahrain”.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats led calls for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to act against the “totally unacceptable” behaviour of the 74-year-old Conservative backbencher.
A government source told PA news agency on Saturday that Stewart has informed Chief Whip Simon Hart that he wishes to surrender the party whip until a possible appeal of his conviction is resolved.
Stewart’s office has been contacted for comment.
The Conservative Party said it had no further updates on the situation.
On Friday, Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring found Stewart guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence and handed him a fine of £600, with additional legal costs bringing the total to £1,435.
It came after the court had been told that the MP had become embroiled in a row with a protester outside the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House in Westminster on December 14 last year.
Stewart had been attending an event hosted by the Bahraini embassy when Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei shouted “Bob Stewart, for how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?”.
During a heated exchange, Mr Stewart replied: “Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss. Go back to Bahrain.”
He also told Alwadaei: “You’re taking money off my country, go away!”
Goldspring, despite mentioning Mr Stewart’s “immense positive character”, remarked: “I accept he is not racist per se, but that is not the case against him.
“Good men can do bad things.”
The MP told the court that he is “not a racist” and that it had been “extremely offensive” for the demonstrator to suggest he was “corrupt”.
Stewart, a former British Army officer who was stationed in Bahrain in 1969, said he is a “friend” of the Middle Eastern country.
Following his conviction, Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said Sunak “urgently needs to get his house in order” and remove the whip from Stewart after his “totally unacceptable” behaviour.
Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain had warned that failing to remove the whip would “send a dangerous message that behaviour like this is acceptable.”
Press Association – Patrick Daly