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"I was looking for tractors!" - Parish resigns

Devon by-election on the way

Tiverton & Honiton MP Neil Parish has quit, 24 hours after being named at the Conservative member of parliament who had watched pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons.

It paves the way for a by-election in his Devon constituency, where he has progressively increased his majority since being elected in 2010.

He had been seen viewing porn twice, and on Friday had suggested he may have opened something in error.

He told the BBC that was indeed the case the first time. He claims he had been looking at tractors.

Mr Parish is a farmer and also, until today, was chair of parliament's environment, food and rural affairs committee.

However, in what he calls a "moment of madness," the second occasion he was seen accessing porn was deliberate.

He said: "and "I was not proud of what I was doing".

In his interview with BBC South West, Mr Parish said: "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.

"But my crime - biggest crime - is that on another occasion I went in a second time."

Asked if that was deliberate he said: "That was deliberate... that was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber."

He added: "What I did was absolutely wrong".

Talking earlier to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Parish's wife Sue described him as "quite a normal guy" and "a lovely person".

"If you were mad with every man who looked at pornography, you would not have many wives in the world," she said.

Mr Parish had the Conservative whip withdrawn after he was named on Friday, but faced increasing pressure from female MPs on both sides of the house to resign. 

A day later, seeing no way back, and in an emotional BBC interview, he confirmed he was doing just that.

The date for the by-election will be announced by the Speaker of the House of Commons, and usually takes place within three months of a vacancy. Although some local elections are taking place next week, Mid Devon District Council is not one of the areas concerned.

That will be a relief to Conservatives on that council, although the district is run jointly by them and a fractious and fragmenting coalition of independents, as reported just this week. Read that story here:

In the 2019 general election, Mr Parish had a 24,000 seat majority over Labour, and took 60 per cent of the votes.

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