Neil Parish MP: I’m resigning after porn moment of madness

Mr Parish – the MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon – said it had been a “moment of madness” and “I was not proud of what I was doing”.

He said the first time was accidental after looking at tractors, but the second time was deliberate.

He was suspended by the Conservative Party on Friday over the allegations.

Two female colleagues claimed they had seen him looking at adult content on his phone while sitting near them.

In an exclusive interview with BBC South West, he said: “The situation was that – funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at. I did get into another website that had a very similar name and I watched it for a bit which I shouldn’t have done. But my crime – biggest crime – is that on another occasion I went in a second time.”

Asked if that was deliberate he said: “That was deliberate… that was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber.”

He added: “What I did was absolutely totally wrong.”

Mr Parish appeared emotional as he said he was standing down after seeing the furore and damage it was causing his family, his constituency and local association.

“I was wrong, I was stupid, I lost sense of mind,” he said.

But he denied watching the material in a way where he hoped other people would see it.

He told the BBC he was apologising: “I make a full apology. A total full apology. It was not my intention to intimidate.”

Neil Parish said last night that he would remain an MP while his conduct was investigated.

But overnight, under significant pressure, he has changed his mind.

This will trigger a by-election in what is a safe Tory seat.

But the bigger picture here matters too. Westminster has been rocked by allegations of a sexist culture this week. If Mr Parish had continued as an MP, he would have been plagued by questions over his conduct.

Caroline Nokes questioned this morning whether he would be able to do his job as extensively as required. Others suggested it would be impossible for him to continue to hold his influential position chairing the environment committee.

This story – and others – have damaged Parliament’s reputation. They’ve also damaged the Conservative Party. Both will be hoping that Mr Parish’s resignation will help them start to move on.

Mr Parish’s local party, Tiverton and Honiton Conservatives, said it supported his decision to step down.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank Neil Parish for his service to our communities over the past 12 years,” it added.

In an earlier interview with the Times, Mr Parish’s wife, Sue Parish, said the allegation was “very embarrassing” and described her husband as “quite a normal guy” and “a lovely person”.

“If you were mad with every man who looked at pornography, you would not have many wives in the world,” she said.

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She added she did not see the attraction of pornography and understood why the women who had made the allegation were upset.

Mr Parish had been facing an investigation by Parliament’s standards commissioner. MPs found to have violated the code of conduct can face punishments including apologising to the Commons, or being suspended or expelled.

Other politicians had called for Mr Parish – who was also chair of the environment select committee – to stand down as an MP.

Labour criticised the wider culture in Parliament, accusing the government of having known about the incident for days but failing to take action.

Senior Tory MP Caroline Nokes had also criticised the delay by the Tory whips office to act and suspend him from the Conservative party, saying the whips office was “still too blokey”.

“I felt that by leaving it until Friday before we knew that action had been taken by the whips, that felt like unnecessary dither and delay.”

On Wednesday, it emerged that a female minister had reported a male colleague for viewing pornographic material while sitting beside her in the Commons chamber. The female minister said she had also seen the MP watching pornography during a hearing of a select committee, The Times reported.

A second female Tory MP said she had tried but been unable to capture video proof of him doing so.

The allegations were subsequently revealed to have been made about Mr Parish.

The government’s safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean denied that the Conservative Party was institutionally sexist, saying: “I think there is clearly a problem in the House of Commons. And I think it extends to all parties actually.”

And asked about the delay to Mr Parish being suspended, she said: “There clearly needed to be some time to establish the veracity of what was said, the facts of the case. Where we’ve got to now is the right place we need to be, which is there is the investigation happening, the chief whip has taken the action he’s taken.”

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