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The BBC's Stephen Cape
"Street crime is common here"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 17:07 GMT
Ex-minister Tony Banks mugged
Tony Banks
Tony Banks - renowned for his wit
Former sports minister Tony Banks was mugged at knifepoint by a gang of four teenagers in east London on Tuesday evening.

Mr Banks was walking out of Forest Gate station at about 2200GMT when he was approached by three black youths and one Chinese teenager who demanded money.

The West Ham MP was punched in the face and robbed of about 50. He suffered an injury to his left eye, but did not require medical attention.

Mr Banks said he felt angry after the incident, but was not going to be forced off the streets by four yobs.

He said the robbery happened as he was returning from the House of Commons to his home in his constituency.

Cliche

He said that the leader of the gang had approached him and asked the time.

"It's a cliche - it's like saying `we're about to rob you'. I gave him the time and he just whacked me in the face.

"They forced me over to the other side of the street. Then I felt a knife in the side of me," the MP said.

The youths demanded his wallet. Mr Banks said he did not have one, but he did give them some money which he had just withdrawn from a cash machine.

"I decided the best thing to do was to keep the whole thing cool," he said. The youths, who appeared to be aged around 16 or 17, ran off with the money and Mr Banks called the police.

When officers arrived, they took him round the area in a police car to see if they could find his assailants, but without success.

Ironically, the attack took place on the day the local council, Newham, had launched its "Respect" campaign in a major drive against crime and anti-social behaviour.

Outspoken MP

Mr Banks, a keen Chelsea fan, became an MP in 1987 and was made sports minister in a surprise move after the 1997 general election.

Banks protesting
Protesting against whaling
He held the post until last year when he was placed in charge of England's failed World Cup bid. He was replaced by Kate Hoey.

Mr Banks is known as one of the most outspoken MPs and his wit has frequently got him into trouble.

He once described Tory leader William Hague as a "foetus" and upset Anglo-Canadian relations by calling the Canadians "dickheads" over seal culling.

Terry Dicks, the former Tory MP for Hayes and Harlington, was once described by Mr Banks as "living proof that a pig's bladder on the end of a stick can be elected to Parliament".

As well as sport, Mr Banks is also passionate about animal welfare.

He is a strong opponent of fox hunting and on Tuesday even tabled a Commons motion opposing Ken Livingstone's attempts to get rid of the Trafalgar Square pigeons.

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See also:

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