Sex, spies… and the truth about my hair: Cameron sacked Michael Fabricant as Tory vice-chairman for being so indiscreet. But has he learnt his lesson? Not on your life!
By Jane Fryer
Which of the following statements about Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield, is true?
A: He was expelled at gunpoint from the Soviet Union for encouraging a KGB officer to defect in 1989.
B: He was once a cow on The Archers.
C: He was a medical student in the 1970s before becoming disillusioned with the NHS.
D: He is currently suffering from sciatica after spending a penny on a hill in Brazil over the New Year and losing his footing as he ?adjusted? himself.
E: He wears a wig.
The answer is ? all of them, except E, which most people assume to be true but most definitely isn?t, he assures me over a long, brilliantly entertaining chat in his very grand office in Whitehall.
Surely that fabulous, extraordinary blond mop, variously described as ?hair-like substance? and as resembling the tail of My Little Pony, and resting in yellow curls on his shirt collar, is not really his own?
?Look, it?s not a wig. It?s a lot more complicated than that,? he insists, with a lot of flourishes of his hands. ?But we?ll come to that later.?
Safe to say, Fabricant – Fabs, Fabbo, MickyFabs, Flamboyant Fabs, Mad Fab, he is a man of many nicknames – is not quite like his fellow MPs.
He is ridiculously flamboyant, frequently silly, loves singing in public, playing the ukulele, and is also Westminster?s most prolific tweeter (he has 16,600 followers).
He twitters on about anything and everything from bad hair days (there are many), the dreaded HS2 rail link which is set to smash through his leafy Lichfield constituency, the threat of Ukip, and an extraordinary story involving incestuous llamas, David Cameron?s election guru and kangaroos.
?David Cameron has been incredibly indulgent with me over the years,? says Fabricant.
But his tweet in response to Culture Secretary Maria Miller?s resignation last month – ?about time? – was reportedly too much even for the PM to swallow and Fabs was sacked as party vice-chairman.
?They wanted me to resign, but I said: ?No, you?ll have to sack me?. It was all very amiable. The most amiable sacking you could imagine. So I
Was he surprised Cameron had finally snapped? ?No. And I don?t have any regrets,? he says. ?In fact, I had restrained myself in not tweeting ?time for her to go? before she resigned, even though everyone was thinking it.?
He hasn?t always shown such restraint. He is infamous for some terrible gaffes and errors of judgment. Over recent years, he has offended members of the Jewish community (his father was a rabbi) with a reference to ?the holocaust of the 1997 election?.
He has been held at gunpoint on holiday in Colombia when his supply of powdered milk substitute, Coffee-mate, was discovered (he had to eat two spoonfuls before they were satisfied it wasn?t cocaine).
And he made a memorably bad appearance on BBC TV?s Have I Got News For You, where panellist Paul Merton said: ?The thing that amazes me about MPs is that they don?t seem to have any idea how embarrassing they are in public.?
Rumour has it, though, that it was his llama/kangaroo clash with Cameron?s Australian-born election adviser Lynton Crosby that really did for him.
?It?s a long story …? he takes a deep breath. It involves his friend Matthew Parris, the former Tory MP and political columnist, who keeps llamas.
?The problem with llamas is that they?re heavily into incest. Anyway, Matt names his llamas after the first person of that sex who sees them. So there was Darren (the handyman) and Vera (his cleaner).?
Unfortunately, Darren took a shine to Vera, so Michael said he?d take Darren away to his holiday house in Wales and out of temptation.
And then, during the Winter Olympics, Michael tweeted about Russia?s appalling record with gays.
Someone tweeted back, asking: ?Are you gay, or pretending to be gay??
In reply, the MP attached a picture of himself and Darren the llama, saying: ?What I can tell you is I?m having an affair with a llama,? adding: ?What I won?t tell you, because it?s private, is whether it?s a boy llama or a girl llama.?
?Next thing I get – shock horror – and I can?t possibly say who it was… [here he slips into a broad Australian accent]: ?Bloody ?ell, it wasn?t bad enough gay marriage screwing up the party, now we?ve got a vice chairman arguing for bestiality.?
?And then I made a joke about kangaroos and Australians, which he didn?t find funny.?
So it?s perhaps not surprising Fabricant?s political career didn?t get off to a flying start at his initial interview at Conservative Central Office with a Tory knight who was vice-chairman of candidates.
?It all went very well until he said: ?I think you would make a marvellous member of Parliament. Have you tried the Liberal Party???
Undaunted, he re-applied two years later. Central Office were rather more welcoming on this occasion and he?s been MP for Lichfield since 1992.
No one could accuse Michael of being a career politician. A professional student, he went to medical school, then studied in ?America, Oxford, a Masters at Sussex, the lot? until he was 28.
But he also worked for the BBC, read the news and, as a special treat, on Radio 4?s The Archers stood in for one of the Grundys? Jersey cows.
?I went ?moooo? and they lowered it to sound more like a cow,? he says.
He also started a lucrative business making, exporting and installing broadcast desks – pieces of technical kit used by radio stations – to 48 countries, including the then Soviet Union. It was there that he ran into a little local difficulty.
?I was expelled at gunpoint for naughty activities,? he says.
Was he a spy? A rare silence.
?I was trying to get people to defect,? he says, eventually. ?The head of studio planning at a radio station in Moscow, where we were installing a desk, was in the KGB. I got him over to Britain, but then he changed his mind. He didn?t want to betray his country.
?Anyway, I can?t go into too much detail or I?ll be shot.?
Another topic about which he?s never talked publicly is – despite much speculation and several close relationships with men – his sexuality. All I can gather from him is that he has very good friends, but lives mostly on microwaved Waitrose curries and on his own.
Which might be one of the reasons he tweets so much.
?I love tweeting. I may be off message, I may be risqu?, but at least I get read a lot.?
His golden rule is ?never drink and tweet?. ?But I do drink gallons of milk. That?s my secret,? he says.
He certainly looks astonishingly youthful for 63. And his skin is amazing – soft and plump. ?I don?t Botox, I haven?t had any facelifts. I do use a moisturiser. But I?ve had no surgery,? he assures me.
He pauses, his extraordinary hair perched on his head. His luxurious mane is the elephant in the room.
?OK, all I will admit to is that there is some – but only some – enhancement of the follicular area.?
But where? Front, middle, sides?
?No! I?m not going any further. No comment. I?ve given you all I?m prepared to say at this stage. Her Majesty?s Government can take no further questions!?
Perhaps if he kept it a bit less, well, flamboyant, people would comment less. ?But I love it! It?s fun. It?s me. I?m a fluffy man. It?s blond all the way down, you know. My armpits. I can show you other bits.?
Fabricant is clearly super-bright, extremely likeable and very successful in business and politics, but constantly undermines the things he?s serious about with silliness.
?It?s a difficult balance between grabbing people?s attention and being treated seriously,? he concedes. ?Sometimes, I teeter over the wrong way. Which I regret.
?But on the other hand, if I was a boring old fart in a pinstripe suit, you wouldn?t be interviewing me. And I wouldn?t be here anyway – I?d have lost like everyone else in 1997.?