Former MP Neil Parish confirms he will not stand for re-election and gives backing to Conservative candidate

By Joe Ives - Local Democracy Reporter

25th May 2022 | Local News

Neil Parish resigned as an MP last month after admitting to watching pornography in the House of Commons (Photo credit: UK Parliament)
Neil Parish resigned as an MP last month after admitting to watching pornography in the House of Commons (Photo credit: UK Parliament)

Porn-watching former MP Neil Parish has confirmed he will not stand for election in the Honiton & Tiverton constituency, despite much speculation over the past week. 

Former Conservative Mr Parish had previously said he was taking "soundings of support" for him to run as an independent candidate in the parliamentary by-election, called after he resigned having admitted to watching pornography in the House of Commons on two occasions. 

Speaking to the BBC's Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Parish said he had "a lot of support" from constituents, including more than 100 letters to his house and lots of emails, but said he now feels "happy" with the Conservative's selected candidate, former headteacher Helen Hurford, from Honiton.

He continued: "I was just a little bit worried that somebody might come in from London that would not be suitable for Tiverton and Honiton because, not only do you need a good parliamentary representative in London, it's a seat that wants a good local representative as well and I tried to be that over the years."

Mr Parish said he would be "very happy" to campaign with Ms Hurford but added that it would be a will be a decision for her and the Conservative Party.

"But I am here," he continued, "I will be talking to people that have supported me in the past.

"I'm very happy to introduce her to people if she wishes me to do so but I'm entirely really now in the hands of the party. Naturally, it's her decision very much how she runs her campaign and I do wish her every success."

Mr Parish said it was important to have a female candidate, partly "because of the circumstances" of his own exit.

He added: "I think it's probably quite fitting now that after 12 years of a man representing the constituency it's really good to have a very able woman." 

He said the quality of the Conservative candidate is the main reason why he won't be running for his old seat as an independent. 

Mr Parish explained that he and his wife feel he has contributed a lot to his local constituency and to parliament, adding: "I think what I need to do now is let somebody else get on with that work and I need to concentrate on my family, my wife, who's been so supportive, and also I can do some more farming." 

Mr Parish wants to "keep his brain alive" by focusing on food production, farming, animal welfare, the environment and farming charities. 

He continued: "I've really appreciated the support that I've been given in the constituency. I tried to work hard over the last 12 years and I hope that's paid off and I really have been glad of the support."

Mr Parish added that he was sorry he had to leave his post "in such circumstances." 

The former MP now expects his role in the Conservative Party to be "very limited, especially to start with" but does see more of a background role for himself in the future "once the storm is over – and the storm is dying down now".

Prime Minister should 'explain himself' over Downing Street party photos

Boris Johnson toasting at a party in November 13 2020 (photo credit: Itv News)
Mr Parish has also described himself as being like the Prime Minister – an "imperfect character" – as photos of Boris Johnson as a reported party in Downing Street were released by the press this week. 

He said the Prime Minister should now "explain himself" after ITV released the photos, in which the PM is seen raising a glass surrounded by bottles of alcohol.

"The issue I think for the prime minister is very much now to explain what these events were," said Mr Parish.

"He's maintained they weren't parties. I think as more photos emerge it is getting quite difficult for him."

"The Prime Minister has many great qualities. I think he sometimes naturally doesn't quite realise the effect that he's having on the rules that he's asking other people to be applied and, of course, if you've lost loved ones you are of course naturally very upset and I do understand that.

"I think it's for him to explain himself and then for the public to make their judgement on him.

"I think he's an imperfect character, but then so am I. He has a good heart and he does actually believe in trying to get things done. 

"His one great problem in a way is that he overpromises and I think then finds that he can't deliver on everything. But I have always found him good to deal with. I have always got on with him very well."

The Tiverton & Honiton by-election will be held on Thursday, June 23.

As well as Helen Hurford for the Conservatives, Axminster businesswoman Liz Pole, who also ran in 2019, will stand for Labour, and former Army major Richard Foord, will be the Lib Dems' candidate.

Reform UK, formerly known as the Brexit Party, has named Andy Foan as their candidate.

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