Go now, Tories urge MP in Commons porn row

Today’s Headline in the Times

One local party chairwoman said: “How do we explain this on the doorstep? I couldn’t get people to go out with all the party stuff, and now this.”

But for the moment “our” Neil looks like he is hanging in “due process and all that” (following his leader?)

On returning to his home in Somerset yesterday he told his wife, Sue: “I’m sorry you’ve married a f***ing idiot.” 

Conservative MP Neil Parish suspended after accusations of watching porn in Commons

Ashley Cowburn www.independent.co.uk 

Tory MP Neil Parish is facing calls to resign after being named as the individual accused by female colleagues of watching pornography in the House of Commons chamber.

The 65-year-old backbencher has been suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party and is set for investigation after referring himself to parliament’s standards commissioner.

He offered an apology “for the situation”, but vowed to continue serving as MP for Tiverton and Honiton while the inquiry takes place, promising he would quit parliament if found guilty.

Speaking to reporters outside his Devon home, Mr Parish suggested that he had opened the offensive material by error in the Commons chamber. But he declined to confirm suggestions that he plans to say in his defence that it was sent to his phone by someone else.

“I will await the findings of the inquiry and then I will consider my position,” he said. “I will not remain if I am found guilty.”

His suspension comes after politicians of all stripes reacted with outrage at the claims first made privately by two female Tory MPs during a meeting with party officials on Tuesday evening.

Ending days of rife speculation over the identity of the individual alleged to have watched porn, Mr Parish – who also chairs the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee – had the whip suspended on Friday.

Asked if he recognised the offence caused to female colleagues, he said: “Of course I can understand why they are concerned and I can only apologise for the situation, but I will maintain my duties as MP.”

He revealed that he only informed his wife this afternoon i- some time after it became public knowledge – that he was the MP at the heart of the pornography storm which has raged in Westminster over the past two days.

“Of course it’s embarrassing, and it’s embarrassing for my wife and family,” he said. “I have a very supportive wife and I thank her for that.”

Mr Parish’s wife Sue told The Times her husbnnd was “quite a normal guy, really, a lovely person”, adding: “It’s just so stupid.”

She said that the female MPs who complained about Mr Parish were “quite right” to be upset”, adding: “He would never just sit there with people looking. He would never just do that knowing [people were looking]”.

Mrs Parish said she did not understand the attraction of pornography. “I’m a woman,” she said. “Hence why the women were so cross. It’s degrading. It’s demeaning.”

Standards commissioner Kathryn Stone may launch a probe if she believes Mr Parish caused “significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the House of Commons.

A second investigation by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) — established in the wake of the MeToo scandal — was launched after the allegations surfaced.

But the senior Labour MP Harriet Harman insisted Mr Parish should resign “right away” if the allegations are true, saying the incident was a “new low” for the House of Commons.

Ms Harman, the mother of the house – the longest serving female MP – told BBC Radio 4: “If this is what he has done, he should stand down from parliament right away.

“It’s not right for him to go through the investigation process if that is what he has done. Clearly he is not fit to be in parliament. He should accept that and not drag the processes out”.

After his suspension, it emerged Mr Parish was asked about the allegation that an MP had watched porn in the Commons chamber in a TV interview days before being named as the suspect, and told GB News the incident should be treated “seriously”.

In the interview Mr Paris also denied there was a cultural problem of misogyny in parliament – but said some MPs might “step over the line”.

“I think the whip’s office will do a thorough investigation and we will wait and see that result and I think from that, then the decision will have to be made what action should be taken,” he said.

Asked if there was a culture of misogyny in parliament, Mr Parish replied: “When you’ve got 650 members of parliament in what is a very intense area, you are going to get people that step over the line.

“I don’t think there’s necessarily a huge culture here but I think it does have to be dealt with and dealt with seriously and I think that’s what the whips will do.”

The move on Friday by chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris followed accusations that the Conservatives were failing to act on complaints from two of their own female MPs, with demands for action from opposition parties and some Tories.

Labour’s shadow leader of the Commons, Thangam Debbonaire MP, said: “The Conservatives knew for days about the disgusting behaviour of one of their MPs and tried to cover it up … this is a government rotting from the head down. Britain deserves better.”

Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: “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. Parliament should be no different.

“We don’t need to insult the women MPs who witnessed this with a lengthy investigation. All his bosses need to do is ask for his devices and look at his viewing history, this isn’t rocket science.”

Former Conservative leader William Hague suggested thatMr Heaton-Harris should have moved more quickly to suspend the MP from the parliamentary party.

“It would have been better to make sure everybody knew who it was involved and take this action a few days ago,” Lord Hague told Times Radio.

The former Tory leader said it was right to wait for the outcome of Ms Stone’s inquiry but said it should be “resolved quickly” to avoid “terrible shame on [parliament’s] reputation”.

The pornography claims come amid renewed focus on misconduct and misogyny in parliament and reports at the weekend that 56 MPs – including three cabinet ministers – are facing sexual misconduct claims that have been referred to the ICGS.

Lord Hague said: “Clearly these things are completely unacceptable, utterly depressing. And I think we will end up with MPs having to vacate their seats. You know, there are going to be resignations from parliament over this and the political parties really have to clamp down on it.”

Women’s charities have warned that Westminster’s working culture is “in the gutter”. The CEO of charity refugee told The Independent the last seven days had been a “difficult week for women”.

Some female MPs have also detailed the sexual harassment they have experienced, including cabinet minister Anne Marie-Trevelyan, who told LBC on Friday that a male MP once pinned her against a wall and told her she “wants him”.

The international trade secretary said female MPs were still subjected to “wandering hands”, later adding: “It’s never okay anywhere. It’s not okay in Westminster either. If you’re a bloke – keep your hands in your pockets”.

Suella Braverman, the attorney general, added that a minority of men in politics “behave like animals” and were bringing parliament into disrepute with unacceptable behaviour.

Before Mr Parish was identified and had the whip suspended for allegedly watching porn in the Commons chamber she said she was “ashamed this person is carrying the Conservative rosette”.

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