MP Neil Parish will ‘have nightmares’ over porn scandal

“Part of me has always wanted to be independent, and I’ve been quite an independent Conservative.”

Sweet dreams! – Owl

Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com

Former Tiverton & Honiton MP Neil Parish, who quit after being caught watching pornography in the House of Commons, has told Devon Live that he will ‘probably have nightmares’ for the rest of his life. Mr Parish said in the two weeks since his resignation, he has been thinking about the ‘sheer madness’ of what he did and apologised again to his wife, who was ‘picking up the pieces’.

He admitted he had twice watched porn on the Commons benches. The 66-year-old, a farmer by trade, claimed the first time was accidental after looking at tractors online, but the second was “a moment of madness”. He spoke about his achievements over the 12-years he has been an MP, what it is like to be thrust into the national spotlight and his hopes for the constituency’s future.

He said: “I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support I’ve had in this constituency and how much of an honour it has been to represent Tiverton & Honiton for 12 years. For me, the highlights of being a member of Parliament for the area has been finally to get Cullompton Railway Station plans going when I thought for a long time it would probably never happen.

“There’s still the fight to get Tiverton High School, and I wish my successor all the very best to try and get that. Bypasses are needed in Cullompton and Axminster. We need to fight for our community hospitals at Seaton, Axminster, Honiton and Tiverton; we must ensure all these facilities are maintained. I shall look forward to watching what happens in the future.

“I hope the next candidate will fight for a new school for Tiverton as a top priority. Then, as I said, we need these bypasses and others. But if there were one thing I would say to my party, a new school for Tiverton is necessary. It would do the town a great deal of good and help raise aspirations in Tiverton. We need better education, and we need more aspiration.”

He continued: “I have worked very hard in this constituency, and I have had great support from councillors, activists and parish councils. All sorts of people have supported me, and I have enjoyed it. Of course, I have also had a great deal of support from the farming community, which I have represented extremely well in Parliament, if I do say it myself, as chair of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee.”

In an interview with the Telegraph last week, Mr Parish said he was considering standing as an independent candidate in the forthcoming by-election, of which the date is yet to be announced.

“What I want to see my own party make sure that they bring in a good local candidate, which will be good in Parliament and the constituency. Being a constituency MP is hard work, and it should be, so I don’t want just anybody foisted upon us. I haven’t made up my mind one way or the other,” he added. “I’m still taking soundings.

“I do not want to upset all the people that have been so loyal to me in my own party. If I did stand, it wouldn’t be for any other party; it would be an independent. Part of me has always wanted to be independent, and I’ve been quite an independent Conservative. The trouble is, if I was trading on the stock exchange now, I think my value would be quite low because of my actions, and I apologise again for them. That’s why probably I won’t stand, but I don’t rule anything out at this stage.”

He continued to say he will miss meeting people and being part of the community of Tiverton & Honiton now he is no longer an MP. “We’ve had some good fun over the years,” he said. “I remember The Tiverton Gazette photographed quite a large Neil Parish going down an inflatable slide and all sorts of other things.

“I’ve never been a pompous MP. I’ve always rolled up my sleeves, and we’ve had lots of good fun, and I shall miss the camaraderie. I am coming up to retirement age, I’ve probably retired a little sooner than I was expecting, but I did enjoy it. I enjoyed Parliament and notably chairing the select committee. I shall miss my friends in Parliament; we had plenty of banter.

“Of course, the ridiculous part with me is that I have blotted my copybook so terribly but behaved very well in Parliament generally. I am sure the national press were doing their best to find somebody to have a story on me, but I don’t think they could find them.”

On being the focus of a national scandal, he added: “I suppose I shall have nightmares for the rest of my life because, my God, is it something. For all my faults and sins, I managed to hold onto my temper. I made a mistake, but my goodness me, the national press are like nobody else you’ve ever come across. They’ve got a job to do, but I think it’s pretty harsh. You are, however, in politics; you put your head above the parapet, you make a mistake, and you pay the price.”

He discussed his plans for the future, adding: “I intend to build up some more farming and probably look at one or two other little business projects. That’s very much in my own gift to go on and do those. I would still like to put the knowledge I’ve gained, especially in the food, farming and environmental side, to good use.

“I also would like to work with the Farm Crisis Network charities. We had just been finishing, when I was previously the chair of the select committee, an inquiry on farmers’ mental health. The Farm Crisis Network rang me on Sunday evening when this was happening to check how I was. I very much thank them for that because one is not at one’s best place at that time.

He added: “What I would say to my national party is that whatever mistakes an MP makes, you need to try and give them a little bit of help in a crisis, not just leave them to it. I drove to Plymouth to resign, and it was all fine with Martyn Oates and my BBC interview, but it could have been very different.

“I’m not saying I would do anything stupid because I’m not like that, but I think they need to care for you a little better in a crisis. Not just looking at me as a very hot potato and hoping I’d just disappear.”

On the candidate he would like to see replace him, he said: “I am still a member of the Conservative Party. I hope to remain that. My message to voters is to be very careful. Look at the candidates, and all being well, the Conservatives will put up a good local candidate. I would ask voters to give that due consideration, and hopefully, they can still vote Conservative. I have represented them well in the past, and I hope the new representative and the Conservative Party will do the same.”