I have to say Good Morning Britain didn't exactly do me any favours this morning when they put out a 30 second clip which people have interpreted as defending the actions of Mark Field at the Mansion House dinner last night. Twitter has gone mental saying how dare I say what I did when I "beat up a pensioner" on Brighton seafront back in 2013. I did nothing of the sort, of course, but that's become what my enemies love to put about.
When Jacqui and I arrived on the GMB set this morning I volunteered to the GMB presenters, Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway that I had some "form" on this sort of incident and would be happy to talk about it. And there then followed a ten minute honest and nuanced discussion, which you can see in the video above.
I am not proud of what happened and have lived to regret it. I apologised to Stewart, the nuclear protester, at the time and publicly. I received a police caution. For the record, at no time did I hit, kick or do anything violent. I helped a GMB sound man pull him away from a camera. I did it by pulling his rucksack. As you can see in the video I was in control of myself and was not violent. We ended up on the ground because both of us lost our balance.
I have met Stewart several times since then, including a couple of times over the last few months as he has been outside Parliament protesting in favour of Brexit. As I relate on the video he asked me to help him pay a vets bill for Stewart the dog whose ear had been ripped in an attack by a Staffie. I gladly did so.
Mark Field's statement explains that he reacted because in a split second he thought the woman could have been a terrorist. If it had been a man who he pinned up against a pillar and forcibly marched out of the room, I doubt it would have become such an issue, but it is. The fact that he hand his hand around the back of the woman's neck, and that his face appeared contorted with anger is where he faces understandable problems. Any man laying a finger on a woman is going to be criticised, whatever the circumstances and whatever the man's justification.
Of course, the reaction to this has been largely split down left and right lines. On the left, the same people who gave John Prescott a free pass when he punched a man who had egged him in 2001 and found Nigel Farage being attacked funny are all frothing about how Field has committed a criminal offence. The right is more split, but there are plenty of people who can't see what the problem is, even though the film of the incident ought to demonstrate very clearly exactly what the problem is. Just as it did in my "incident".
It really hasn't been a good day for the Conservative Party. What with this, the announcement that there be a by-election in Brecon and Radnor, and then this evening the revelations about Boris Johnson in The Guardian and you just get the impression there's an end of days feeling about this government. Just like during the latter days of the John Major administration.