Lib Dems turn on MP over sexual misbehaviour claims
Mike Hancock could be about to be kicked out of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party over allegations of sexual misbehaviour.
The Portsmouth South MP is being hauled before Nick Clegg, deputy Lib Dem leader Simon Hughes and chief whip Alistair Carmichael in an "urgent meeting" to assess the backbencher's future.
But Hancock has said he will refuse to attend, giving the party leadership a free hand to impose a disciplinary action on him without any reply.
"I have no intention of allowing any circumstances to bully me out of my job serving the people of Portsmouth," Hancock declared.
"I will go at a time of my choosing or if the people decide to get rid of me."
He was arrested in 2010 over allegations that he behaved inappropriately to a female constituent in 2009.
The woman, who had come to him with problems about his neighbours, respite care for her son and mental health problems, alleged he kissed her without consent, groped her breast and exposed himself.
Hancock was not charged after his 2010 arrest and has "vigorously" denied any wrongdoing.
But the woman is now suing him in a high court civil action, prompting the move by the parliamentary party.
"You've got to act when allegations of this seriousness are made," Clegg told LBC this morning. "You can't just sit on your hands."
A statement from the Lib Dems reads: "Mike Hancock strenuously denies the accusations made in the civil action.
"We are not prejudging the outcome of the case, but given the seriousness of the allegations, Nick Clegg has instructed the chief whip to invoke the disciplinary procedures of the party."
Hancock has built up a strong local following as MP for Portsmouth North, which he took from the Conservatives in 1997.
His majority slipped in 2005 to 3,362, having peaked in 2001 at 6,093, but recovered again to 5,200 in the 2010 general election.
Since then Hancock, one of parliament's more colourful characters, has been in the headlines because of his romantic link with researcher Ekaterina Zatuliveter, who MI5 alleged was a Russian spy.
The government insisted there were "ample grounds for suspicion" about her activities but the special immigration appeals commission rejected their claim that she had worked for the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence agency.
Hancock said after Ms Zatuliveter's arrest that she had been cleared by Commons security procedures and that there had been no "dodgy dealings" behind his employment of her.
The Lib Dem MP told politics.co.uk in January 2010 that he benefited from the insight she offered him into Russian affairs.
"I get a lot of knowledge – because she [Zatuliveter] takes the time and trouble to read what the Russian media are saying – about events in Britain, for example," Mr Hancock said.
"You get a different feel for the issue. Likewise, I'm hearing from her what the Russians are saying about their own analysis of what's going on in the world."