A Conservative MP has deleted a tweet in which she accused a senior Labour figure of suggesting Owen Paterson should feel guilty about his wife’s suicide.
Lucy Allan was responding to a statement from Labour's Chris Bryant, in which he discussed his own experience of losing a loved one to suicide, and the "grief, anguish and guilt" he had felt.
Bryant was speaking out against proposals to overhaul the disciplinary process for MPs, and to review a ruling that Paterson had breached Parliament's rules by lobbying ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.
Paterson claimed the investigation was unfairly conducted and argued the manner in which it was carried out had played a “major role” in his wife Rose’s suicide in June last year.
He resigned on Thursday after a government U-turn over his suspension.
Following Bryant's speech, Allan tweeted: "To suggest, in public, a ruined man should feel guilt for his wife’s suicide was the lowest politics I have ever heard.”
Bryant responded angrily, insisting he had been misrepresented and Allan later deleted the tweet.
The vote to change the system that oversees standards for MPs in the wake of Paterson's alleged breach of the rules quickly turned into a toxic issue for the Conservatives.
Despite the reservations of some on the Conservative benches, the move was passed with a majority of 18.
The vote sparked widespread outrage for what anti-corruption campaigners, unions and opposition MPs said was the Tories “wallowing in sleaze”, and the government announced today that it was backtracking on the plans.
On Thursday, Boris Johnson was forced into a humiliating U-turn with Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg saying he would instead seek “cross-party” changes to the system.
He told MPs: “While there is a very strong feeling on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeals process, there is equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or apply retrospectively.
“I fear last night’s debate conflated an individual case with the general concern. This link needs to be broken.”
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MPs on Wednesday had debated the plans to overturn Paterson's suspension and to carry out the broader overhaul to the disciplinary process
Bryant – who is the chair of the Committee on Standards – spoke out against the changes.
Speaking of Paterson’s wife’s suicide, he expressed his “sincere condolences”, telling the House: “I have known suicide in my family, as he knows, and I have performed many funerals for suicides.”
Bryant went on to describe feelings that the bereaved sometimes have when a loved one ends their life, adding: “I know the grief, the anguish, and often the guilt that is associated. The last year must have been very distressing for him.”
Bryant’s comments were significantly misrepresented by Allan, who also criticised the Labour MP for launching an “extraordinary personal attack” on Paterson.
Allan wrote: “Those who care more about party politics than justice and empathy for others, no matter their politics or background, have no business being an MP.
“The extraordinary personal attack we heard today from @rhonddabryant wrapped up in sanctimonious virtuousness was sickening.”
This tweet was also later deleted.
Yahoo News UK has contacted the offices of Chris Bryant and Lucy Allan for a comment.
Allan has previously attracted controversy after she admitted modifying an email from a constituent to include a death threat.
She posted an email ending with the words "unless you die" on Facebook but after the email’s author denied writing the final line, Allen said she “posted actual comments made to me on the same day, although not in the same email”.
She added: “Comments were added to the post as they came in. I posted them to show examples of the type of unacceptable online abuse that comes in most days and that most people tolerate silently.”
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