Mark Field, the former Tory minister who controversially manhandled a female environmental protester at the Chancellor’s Mansion House speech, is to quit as an MP.
He told his local party in Cities of London and Westminster, where he had a majority of just 3,148 over Labour at the 2017 general election, that he will not be a candidate at the next election.
Announcing his decision, he said he was proud of his reputation as a “moderate, consensual MP, invariably keen to work effectively across party lines to the benefit of constituents and communities alike”.
But he added: “However, such a pragmatic, co-operative approach to public service has been tested to destruction in the fractious, febrile and deeply divisive aftermath to the EU referendum in 2016.
“I had dearly hoped that by the time of the next general election these issues would have been resolved.
“However, it is increasingly clear that divisions over Brexit and our future relationship with the EU-27 will dominate and define domestic politics for many years to come.”
He continued: “Yet even if the current proposed deal passes – and naturally I shall support it – we must be clear what lies ahead will not be plain sailing.
“But having watched many colleagues follow this path in recent torrid months, I have no desire to become a disaffected, dissenting voice from the backbenches, undermining a government under whose colours I have been elected.
“So the current speculation that a general election may be imminent has forced me to reach the very difficult decision not to offer myself as your candidate for the next election.”
Mr Field has been MP for his central London seat since 2001, but he was due to face a challenge at the next election from Chuka Umunna, the former Labour frontbencher who is now standing in the constituency for the Liberal Democrats.
But his decision to quit is bound to have been influenced by the furore over TV pictures of him grabbing Greenpeace protester Janet Barker during then chancellor Philip Hammond’s Mansion House speech in June.
In images that caused an outcry and protests from women Labour MPs, Mr Field was shown grabbing Ms Barker by the neck, pushing her against a pillar and then removing her from the Mansion House.
Amid calls for him to be prosecuted for assault, he was immediately suspended from his job as a minister of state at the Foreign Office and referred himself to the Cabinet Office for an official investigation.
Announcing his suspension, Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister has seen the footage and she found it very concerning.”
Mr Field was then dropped from the government when Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May as prime minister and the Cabinet Office investigation was wrapped up without any further action being taken against Mr Field.
In a statement released after the incident, Mr Field said: “In the confusion many guests understandably felt threatened and when one protester rushed past me towards the top table I instinctively reacted.
“There was no security present and I was for a split-second genuinely worried she might have been armed. As a result I grasped the intruder firmly in order to remove her from the room as swiftly as possible.
“I deeply regret this episode and unreservedly apologise to the lady concerned for grabbing her but in the current climate I felt the need to act decisively to close down the threat to the safety of those present.”
But after the TV pictures emerged, Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted: “She posed no credible threat from what I can see. There is very little else that could justify this and anyone can see that this could have been done without physical contact.
“Every MP has to deal with protest and conflict, it is done with words. To watch this is so so awful.”
Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler tweeted: “Conservative Foreign Office Minister Mark Field violently grabs a woman as she protests about climate change at the bankers’ banquet.
“This appears to be assault. He must be immediately suspended or sacked. Due to violence against women. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is wondering why no one intervened. So much violence does not seem justified.”
But senior Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley said Mr Field had done nothing wrong. “The woman clearly was trying to create a fuss,” he said. “Most viewers would say it’s good that she didn’t succeed.
“I think there’s no reason to criticise Mark Field. Of course it wasn’t an assault, it was a reversal of direction.”