Austin Mitchell was surprised by the negative reaction to his tweet, which he posted after Mensch had used the social networking site to emphasise that she quit her Corby seat for family reasons and not because she faced an election drubbing, something that her husband had suggested in an interview published at the weekend.
Labour party members were among those who joined in the condemnation of the Grimsby MP's comments but, as Mensch underlined in her own response, senior Labour figures appeared to remain silent.
"Oh and lastly – I look forward to your comments on this, Harriet Harman. #Labour #feminism" she tweeted, referring to Labour's deputy leader, after earlier calling on Ed Miliband to repudiate Mitchell's comment.
Mitchell remained unrepentant, despite giving an indication later on Twitter of the extent of the reproach he had incurred: "Wife, three daughters, one granddaughter and Labour press office all demand that I withdraw my tweet. No chance of front bench now."
Mitchell later told the Press Association that he "loved" Mensch and added: "It was ironic. I'm surprised that people have taken it so negatively. What happened to humour?"
Female members of the Labour party who criticised him included the activist Christine Quigley, who told him that he should be ashamed, and Sally Bercow, who tweeted: "You carry on Austin, "ironically" obvs #plonker."
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