Jess Philips on Neil Parish

… But I am a tiny bit irritated by the idea that it is a pervading culture, that people can’t fight against it, the reason that somebody thought it was okay to watch porn in the chamber is because of the late nights and the drinking and the culture in Westminster – utter rubbish. The reason that person did that is because, for want of a better word, they’re an arsehole. And they should take personal responsibility for their behaviour. …

Breaking: Tory MP Neil Parish investigated over claims he watched porn in Commons

Owl has been “on the wing” all day and out of contact. 

Owl has now literally fallen off the perch on catching up. Seems to sum up the state of the Tory party nationally and locally.

The Conservative MP accused of watching pornography in the House of Commons chamber has been named as Neil Parish.

He has been suspended from the parliamentary party and is under investigation by Parliament’s standards commissioner.

Two female colleagues complained earlier this week after allegedly seeing him looking at adult content on his phone while sitting near them.

Mr Parish said he had referred himself for investigation.

If the standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone, finds that he has violated the code of conduct for MPs, possible sanctions range from having to make an apology to the Commons to suspension or expulsion.

Questioned by the BBC, Mr Parish said he would co-operate fully with the inquiry and would await Ms Stone’s findings before commenting on the allegation.

When asked if he made and mistake and opened something on his phone in error, he said: “I did, but let the inquiry look at that.”

In a statement on his website, Mr Parish said he would “continue to perform my duties as MP for Tiverton and Honiton” while the investigation was ongoing.

In an 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”.

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

“I’m a woman,” she was quoted say saying. “Hence why the women were so cross. It’s degrading. It’s demanding. But on the other hand it takes two to tango. There must be women posing for all this.”

But veteran Labour MP and former deputy party leader Harriet Harman told the BBC the allegations marked a “new low for the House of Commons”.

She said Mr Parish should stand down as an MP immediately if he watched porn in Parliament, adding: “It’s not right for him to go through the investigation processes if that’s what he’s done.”

And Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “If Boris Johnson had any shred of decency left, he would tell Neil Parish to resign immediately.

“In any other workplace this would count as gross misconduct and the person responsible would lose their job.”

Presentational grey line

Who is Neil Parish?

  • The 65-year-old, an MP since 2010, was a Member of the European Parliament for South West England from 1999 to 2009
  • He left school at 16 to manage his family’s farm and, in 2000, was an election monitor during Zimbabwe’s parliamentary election
  • He opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum and voted against the introduction of same-sex marriage by David Cameron’s government
  • Mr Parish is married and has two children and two grandchildren
Presentational grey line

It emerged on Wednesday that a female minister had reported seeing a male Tory MP viewing pornographic material while sitting beside her in the Commons chamber.

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

A Conservative spokesperson said Mr Parish has been suspended from the party whip pending the outcome of Ms Stone’s investigation.

Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris has already asked for the matter to be referred to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

Mr Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, in Devon, chairs the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

The investigation does not prevent him from continuing in that role.

Environment committee member, the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman, said she was “shell-shocked” and that Mr Parish “absolutely shouldn’t remain as chair”.

“I hope this does not detract or distract from the good work the committee has done and continues to do,” she added.

Conservative MP Pauline Latham also suggested Mr Parish should be removed as chairman of the select committee.

Meanwhile, fellow Conservative MP and former Home Office minister Karen Bradley said she hoped Mr Parish would “do the right thing and not come into Parliament” now an investigation was under way.

Mr Parish was quizzed by GB News earlier this week about allegations an MP had been caught watching porn.

“I think the whips’ office will do a thorough investigation, and we will wait and see that result,” he told the channel.

“I think from that then the decision will have to be made what action to be taken.”

The claims against Mr Parish follow a series of allegations about other MPs’ behaviour.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said on Friday that she had once been “pinned up against a wall” by a male colleague and subject to misogyny and “wandering hands” on numerous occasions.

Attorney General Suella Braverman told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour there had to be a discussion about “moral standards”, complaining that a minority of men in politics “behave like animals”.

And a Welsh MP alleged that a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet had made lewd remarks to her.

Comment on local independent politicians

Owl has upgraded Mark Hawkins’ comment on East Devon leader attacks Tories’ Russian links to this full post below:

Before commenting on this piece it’s important to say that plenty of conservatives are decent, honourable, public spirited intelligent people.

Others, as we see here are touched by rather less warmth and fewer brain cells. It can be very difficult when one has had a sense of entitlement and a taste of certainty to realise the public chose to wake up and smell the gravy. It can provoke unreasoned, childish unpleasantness.

Most independent politicians in my experience have less personal ambition than those who choose the party route. I can name two very good local ones who have stood as Independents but were persuaded to join the conservative group because that group’s unchallenged dominance offered the chance to achieve more of their priorities. They both achieved within a relatively short time the previously unsought office of mayor.

Some of the current Independents have significant achievements in their principal careers. The majority were motivated to stand for local government because of a distaste for aspects of how things were, a consequence of a lack of electoral balance and of democratic accountability.

It took three electoral cycles for this movement to achieve success and a further year to overcome the mischief of careerists. These won’t be seen as achievements, more as establishing the opportunity to achieve.

I don’t know any of them well, but have never detected any sense of the politics of envy. No jealousy of legitimately gained success, financial or otherwise. Though I recognise a commonly shared distaste for illegitimately gained wealth, home and abroad, through plundering of the public purse and significantly flawed procurement processes which apparently benefit a targeted few.

It is surely legitimate comment to question the advertisement, for a significant salary, for a campaigns director. If I were a local conservative voter on the minimum wage or universal credit I would want to know why a group which believed itself to possess the collective talent to manage our community’s affairs felt it necessary to employ someone for three times my family’s income to make the case they should surely be capable of themselves.

In the incumbents I have recognised a desire to put the community first and on occasion right wrongs. The presumably anonymous author of the spiteful assassination belittles their achievements, so I will note a few, in a couple of cases noting the shaming distortions of their critic. Coming out of the first lockdown and working remotely they worked to resolve problems with the licensing issues in the Strand, Exmouth, whilst sustaining the appropriate duty of care to the officers on the ground. The tories on the three councils had the opportunity to resolve this over 10 years ago but left the area a hotch potch of ownership and licensing. Stuart Hughes should remember this, he was the lead councillor on the project. Now they seek to exploit it.

The new regime have also resolved recent mistakes in this area caused by the excessive corporate zeal of an outsourcing company, inappropriately tasked by the old guard, who are once again seeking to exploit their own mess.

The new regime have also worked with honourable members from all groups to resolve one of the more distasteful wrongs of the last administration and return Warren View sports ground to it’s rightful place as the home of a community football club. Many residents of Exmouth are well aware now of what really went on in 2016/17 so no need to dwell unless pressed.

Another success achieved in harmony with other groups is to address the functioning of the complaints procedure, which had been used to bully opponents of the dominant group and fallen into disrepute with them and the public. It is still not fully transparent, but I understand Cllr Twiss was a participant in the improved process, which must be a positive.

One endeavour of Cllr Arnott with limited success so far but which has apparently enraged one or two conservatives is his compassionate desire to achieve for the victims of John Humphreys some understanding of how the cesspit of that man’s past remained hidden for over thirty years from the first known offence and still remains substantially concealed. To achieve this requires the active participation of a number of organisations.

This was not mentioned in the conservatives’ anonymous character assassination.

Boris’ big bet on more nukes and EDF’s nuclear bombshell 

According to Private Eye:

THE global nuclear industry is lobbying in overdrive, evidently with great success in No 10, the major European nuclear incumbent EDF well to the fore. Unfortunately for the French firm, its failings advertise themselves loudly. At home, France is suffering the highest electricity prices in Europe, which have blown clean through its price cap.

This is down to major operational difficulties with the large fleet of EDF nukes. Output is at historic lows and France, traditionally an exporter of electricity, is now importing.

Here, EDF’s efforts to build Hinkley Point C are coming unstuck again (Eyes passim), with more delays and cost increases – it’ll now be a mere 10 years later than originally planned. Blaming Covid and Ukraine, in fact EDF has badly misjudged the size of the construction workforce it needs.

Financial disclosures in France suggest EDF fears its Chinese partner in the Hinkley project may not stump up its share of the new cost overrun, and also that EDF has run out of cash on its Sizewell project, for which it now desperately needs the government to contribute. Why will EDF’s assessment of the problematic bedrock at Sizewell (Eye 1527) prove any better than at Hinkley? How any of this rationally justifies Johnson making a “big bet” on more nukes, and on EDF at Sizewell in particular, is anyone’s guess.

Most of the publicity and comment covering Thursday’s High Court Ruling on care homes was not in the national but regional press. 

For example:

“One city care home manager says that the sector was thrown into a ‘nightmare’ by the ‘policy failure’, while a Portsmouth MP has slammed the government’s ‘callous neglect’ of vulnerable people.”

City care sector faced ‘nightmare’ due to government’s ‘failure’ as High Court rules policies allowing untested hospital patients to be discharged into care homes to be ‘unlawful’

[Anyone heard any “slamming” from either Neil Parish and Simon Jupp or even an apology? – Owl]

Emily Jessica Turner 

In early 2020, patients were rapidly discharged into care homes without testing – despite the risk of asymptomatic transmission – with government documents showing there was no requirement for this until mid-April.

In a ruling made today, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham concluded that policies contained in documents released in March and early April 2020 were unlawful because they failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the virus.

The government’s actions in allowing patients to be discharged into care homes at the start of the Covid pandemic has been declared unlawful as it did not take into account the risk of asymptomatic patients spreading the virus

They said that despite ‘growing awareness’ of the risk of asymptomatic transmission, there was no evidence that Mr Hancock or anyone advising him addressed the issue of this risk to care home residents in England.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by The News in 2020 revealed that 25 patients with the virus were sent to care homes from hospital as the pandemic hit.

The 25 discharged from Queen Alexandra Hospital and confirmed as having Covid were among nearly 400 released between March 1 and April 15 – with 206 placed in the community with no records held at QA of testing.

Steve Bonner is chairman of the Pompey Pensioners Association, a group calling on the city’s MPs to lobby government for change.

While he welcomes the High Court’s ruling, Steve believes it is crucial to ‘learn our lessons’ from what happened.

He said: ‘It’s belated, but better late than never.

‘It’s a situation that we shouldn’t have been put in – hospital beds being cleared and people being put in an area where there were vulnerable people being put at risk.

Andrea Pattison outside St Ronans Care Home. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘With the benefit of hindsight, it was an extremely dangerous move and no doubt significantly increased the number of deaths.

‘We’re the group that were put most at risk by that sort of activity.’

At the time, then health secretary Matt Hancock promised that a “protective ring” had been put around care homes nationally.

Andrea Pattison, owner of St Ronan’s Care Home in Southsea and member of the Hampshire Care Association, said: ‘The sector has been fully aware that there was no “protective ring” thrown around care homes – we’ve lived and worked through that nightmare together, and our amazing staff and residents did an outstanding job in the crisis.

‘It’s heartening to see that this element of policy failure is now recognised as such by law.

‘What we need now is accountability and chance – there’s a lot of talk of reform but we need changes that recognises people’s dignity and treats them with respect.

‘We need better funding in the system’.

Portsmouth South’s MP Stephen Morgan says that ministers ignored ‘alarm bells’, despite claiming to have thrown this “protective ring” around city care homes.

He added: ‘This is yet another sad reminder of how many people in our city needlessly died because of government’s callous neglect of the services we all rely on.

‘Ministers cannot claim they weren’t warned at the time and now they cannot claim to have acted to save lives. They broke the law and people died.

‘The government owes it to bereaved families in Portsmouth to make sure that this never happens again.’

Dave Sheppard, Bluewater Care Home in Buckland, said: ‘We were very fortunate and we avoided Covid. Our infection control was really red hot.

‘We put extra staff on, we were extra vigilant – we even purchased an extra spray machine and we got an extra cleaner to clean every surface.

‘There was loads of pressure – all of it could have been better dealt with.

‘It was difficult for every care home and for the residents.

‘Policies were changing by the week, and sometimes by the day – what was perfectly okay one day was illegal three days later.’

Roger Batterbury, chairperson of Healthwatch Portsmouth, said: ‘It’s very upsetting to the many families that have suffered as part of the government’s decisions during the height of the pandemic.

‘Healthwatch Portsmouth has always advised the public to follow the science and Government guidance on testing and social distancing.

‘The news of the High Court ruling though will clearly make uncomfortable reading for many people and trigger still-raw emotions.’

One person who spoke to the Healthwatch Portsmouth chairperson earlier today and who has been through this and lost a parent was very angry.

Roger added: ‘Today’s High Court ruling supports his concerns at the time about the government’s disregard for safety in their decision and the impact it had on patients relating to the practice of ‘no prior testing for COVID on hospital transfers’ of patients to Care Homes.

‘At HWP we feel deeply for the people still suffering or for whom this has brought back difficult emotions, we would advise anyone affected by the impact of today’s news to seek help.’

Penny Mordaunt MP has been approached for comment.

High Court ruling on discharge into care homes: should we now hold Abbeyfield and Devon County to account?

Or at least ask questions about how they justify pressing on with the Shandford care home closure during March 2020?

In Wednesday’s ruling the High Court found that two government policies were unlawful: the March 2020 Discharge Policy, which led to an influx of patients into care homes to free up hospital beds, and the April Admissions Guidance, which provided care homes with advice on admissions of people from hospitals. 

This ruling concerns the movement of patients from hospital to care homes with no testing or isolation period.

Here is what Owl wrote on 28 March 2020 questioning the wisdom of moving frail and vulnerable care home residents from one home to another to meet a commercial objective as Covid-19 raged, infection rates doubling every three days:

Despite a national lockdown care home residents are being shuffled from one home to another.

“Abbeyfield appear intent on moving two frail residents from Shandford on Monday to other care homes, despite the country being in lockdown.  

Owl has been deluged by local comment since this story appeared on-line a couple of days ago. This is Owl’s attempt at putting these in context.

The country is in a form of lockdown described as: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives, allowing limited movement outside the home for essential purposes.

This week the most vulnerable were sent a letter instructing them to stay at home and not to move outside for any reason. These would have included the sort of vulnerable centenarians, resident in the Abbeyfield “Shandford” care home.

Yesterday, the national restrictions were further tightened when healthy people contracted to move house, even as soon as this weekend, were advised not to.

Despite this national emergency, Owl understands, Abbeyfield are intent in moving the frail and vulnerable out of Shandford to meet their self imposed deadline to close the home. Apparently, at least two are scheduled to leave on Monday. When the safety of this has been questioned the reply given by Devon County Council is that this is in accordance with “existing protocols” . [To a correspondent via email]

Owl finds this incomprehensible. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has breezed through “existing protocols” which is why we are facing an uncontrolled epidemic with infections doubling every three days. Covid-19 is spread by person to person contact. Shuffling people around is recklessly irresponsible, “existing protocols” must be torn up and common sense applied or our collective attempts at achieving control will fail.

To date Covid-19 restrictions appear to have kept Shandford open for longer than Abbeyfield intended. Owl understands that Shandford could have been saved. Amica Care Trust had made approaches to take over the home. Simon Jupp MP had tried to facilitate this.with no success. A local “Save our Shandford” organisation could have formed the nucleus of providing a local source of fundraising. An attempt at creating a Community Interest Company to take Shandford back into local control has been frustrated by Abbeyfield’s refusal to disclose details of the 2012 deed of transfer, when local control was ceded to Abbeyfield. 

Owl has been told all monies will be returned to the Town when the site is sold. So Owl is puzzled by why Abbeyfield appears intent on “realising the assets” at the start of an economic crash, rather than transfer it to Amica or back to local control as a going concern.

To Owl this appears a scorched earth policy.”