British MP who watched pornography in Parliament resigns

Neil Parish has said the incident was 'a moment of madness'

Neil Parish has said he 'must've taken complete leave of my senses'. AFP
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British MP Neil Parish has resigned after watching pornography while sitting in the House of Commons.

Mr Parish, 65, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, called the incident a “moment of madness”.

He said he could not survive the fallout as opposition leaders called for action to tackle misogyny in society.

“I thought I could explain what happened, but in the end I could see the furore and the damage I was causing my family and constituency was not worth carrying on,” he said.

He said the decision to resign was an admission of wrongdoing.

“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,” he said.

Mr Parish, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, had vowed to stay in office while parliamentary standards officials investigated allegations that he was twice seen watching pornography in the Commons.

Parish's reputation shattered

On Saturday, he admitted it was time to leave. "My crime ― biggest crime ― is that on another occasion I went in a second time, and that was deliberate. That was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber," he said.

"It was wrong what I was doing, but this idea that I was there watching it, intimidating women, I mean I have 12 years in Parliament and probably got one of the best reputations ever – or did have."

When pressed on why he chose to view the material in the Commons, he said: "I don't know, I think I must've taken complete leave of my senses and my sensibilities and my sense of decency, everything."

A representative for the local party confirmed he was leaving.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank Neil Parish for his service to our communities over the past 12 years," the party said. "We support his decision to step down as our member of parliament.”

Dangers of misogyny

The Labour party's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, right, during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PA

Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the opposition Labour party, expressed bafflement at Mr Parish's excuse.

"Neil Parish must think you were all born yesterday. Boris Johnson's Conservatives are a national embarrassment," she said.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, said the resignation was a time for society to recognise the harm caused by misogyny.

"I don't think there could really be any other outcome to what has come to light about this particular MP over the last few days," she said.

"Watching porn on a mobile phone in the House of Commons when you're there representing constituents is just unacceptable."

She said sexism and misogyny were a "societal problem" that now needed to change.

His departure will pave the way for a by-election in the Tory safe seat, which was won by Mr Parish by more than 14,000 votes over Labour in 2019.

Updated: April 30, 2022, 3:54 PM
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