Tom Watson says he will #savetheintern who tweeted "rape" comment in his name
MP Tom Watson has forgiven a researcher who plunged him into an internet row by pretending to be him - and making a joke about rape.
Mr Watson (Lab West Bromwich East), Labour's internet guru in his role as deputy party chair, said he had accepted an apology from the 21-year-old researcher and would not fire her, even though she sent an offensive message in his name.
The MP has also issued an apology after the researcher sent a message on Internet service Twitter stating: "I should log out of my twitter so that my intern doesn't twit-rape me..."
She used Mr Watson's Twitter account, which has 65,000 followers, so that the comment appeared to come from the MP himself.
In fact, Mr Watson was chairing a meeting with Labour shadow cabinet colleagues at the time. But some Twitter users sent angry messages back - in the mistaken belief that the high-profile MP was making a joke out of rape.
The researcher sent a second message 15 minutes later, starting: "My boss is in a meeting, i've made a terrible mistake, im very sorry everyone, it wasn't meant to be offensive! logging him off now! sorry!"
Finally, Mr Watson returned to his desk and sent a message stating: "I sincerely apologise for the recent tweet. A lesson learned for a young intern. She's also very sorry. I will deal with the matter offline."
But speaking to the Birmingham Mail, Mr Watson said he had no intention of firing the researcher, who is working in the Commons in a paid role for 12 months as part of a politics course.
He said: "I employ a young student intern on a year's contract while she learns about Parliament.
"Clearly she showed inexperience and a degree of immaturity. She is deeply embarrassed about her inappropriate Tweet.
"I am too. I have apologised.
"But I'm not going to ruin a young person's career prospects because they made one silly mistake."
Mr Watson was one of the first MPs to make use of the internet, including Twitter, to communicate with constituents and the public in general. He has also led the campaign against phone hacking at some newspapers.