The ‘stupid idiot’ of a former MP for Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish is a jolly lucky chap that his wife Sue is more of an easy-going soul than in the early days of their 41-year marriage.

‘Sue always says I’m oversexed,’ he says.‘I don’t know if I am but I have a healthy appetite. She used to say when I was a little too amorous, “I’ll get the scissors to you if you don’t behave yourself. Snippety, snip.” ‘

2 years ago

‘Burdizzos,’ Sue corrects him. ‘In the past, I’ve chased him round the kitchen with burdizzos — the things you use on cattle to crush their balls.’

Neil, 66, is, of course, the farmer with a passion for the countryside and, as we now know, internet sites featuring ‘scantily clad things’ (his words), who ‘blew up [his] political career’ when he was caught watching porn on his mobile phone in the chamber of the House of Commons.He insisted, much to the merriment of many, he ‘got on to it by accident’ while Googling a site about tractors.

‘Everybody laughs and says you’re telling porky pies but I’m not,’ he says. ‘When you go on to Google, lots of things come up.I look at tractors and cars.

Former Tory MP Neil Parish, pictured with his wife Sue, right, at their home on Somerset, lost his political career after a search for tractors on the internet led him to a website featuring pornography

Former Tory MP Neil Parish, pictured with his wife Sue, right, at their home on Somerset, lost his political career after a search for tractors on the internet led him to a website featuring pornography

Mr Parish stressed he was not looking for 'The Dominator' as that is a combine harvester and he was seeking tractors

Mr Parish stressed he was not looking for ‘The Dominator’ as that is a combine harvester and he was seeking tractors

Former MP Neil Parish, pictured, was searching for tractors on the internet when he came across pornography

Former MP Neil Parish, https://bvespirita.com/ pictured, was searching for tractors on the internet when he came across pornography

‘There was a direct link [to the site].

I’m not going to say what I Googled but it’s not The Dominator as has been reported, because that’s a combine harvester. I have gone on to sites before — you know, scantily clad things and what have you — but I haven’t gone on to anything like this, to be honest with you.

The problem is I shouldn’t have gone on to it a second time. It was the second time that did it.’

He is genuinely regretful — and rightly so. Sue, 66, rallies to his defence. ‘I guess we’re not very good at IT, either of us,’ she says.‘We’ve just booked a holiday. Neil wanted to go from Dover to Dunkirk. It ended up being Dover to Calais. It’s only down the road so it doesn’t matter but we aren’t very good on computers at all.’

I hadn’t known quite what to expect when I arrived at the Parish’s rambling farmhouse in Somerset but it certainly wasn’t this Neil and Sue show.Neil tells me he is giving this interview because ‘it’s time this was finished. Time to move on’.

‘Put it to bed,’ Sue agrees.

‘Perhaps that’s the wrong way to put it,’ says Neil, gently.

You sense he’s treading carefully around his wife, who gave up teaching German and Spanish to support his political career that included 12 years as an MEP and ten as an MP.

She is, as she says, ‘a fairly tough sort’.So much so that Neil concedes he felt ‘numb’ when he found himself ‘stuck on the bloody motorway’ on his way home from Westminster to ‘come clean and say what I had done’ to his burdizzo-wielding wife.

‘Although they don’t actually crush the balls,’ he explains.

‘They squeeze the cords leading to the testicles.’

‘I knew before he told me,’ says Sue.‘A journalist rang to ask for my comment. I said, “About what?” He asked if I was sitting down. I was just hit for six. I didn’t cry. That’s not the kind of thing that makes me cry.

‘I was in shock. Why should you have any idea what your husband’s doing in his downtime?For goodness sake, you don’t spy on them, do you? Or, you shouldn’t.

‘But I can’t get uppity about it. Perhaps I’m too easy-going, I don’t know. It would have bothered me if it had been sort of weird stuff, I suppose. His friend did actually say, “Jesus, I have to ask you this.” And Neil said, “Oh right.” Then it all went very quiet.

‘Marriages evolve over the years.You grow together or grow apart. We’ve grown together. I have a lovely wife. She’s been amazing,’ he says. ‘On that Saturday morning [a week after Neil had the Conservative Party whip withdrawn] we got up and Sue said, “I think you should go and resign.” I said, “OK.”

He said: ‘Then I talked to my son and daughter. So it was, in the end, a family decision and, in the end, the right decision. I've lost a good political career but hopefully I have still got a good marriage'

He said: ‘Then I talked to my son and daughter.So it was, in the end, a family decision and, in the end, the right decision. I’ve lost a good political career but hopefully I have still got a good marriage’

‘I said, “What did he ask you?” He said, “Oh, he wanted to know if it was weird stuff and I told him it certainly wasn’t.” I said to him, “You’re a stupid idiot.End of.” ‘

We are in the sitting room of the farmhouse in which Neil himself grew up and where they have raised their two children, Jonathan, 40, and Harriet, 37.

Wimbledon is on the television and there is a Bible on the coffee table.

Sue, a slight woman with a pixie haircut and impish humour, is a member of the village church choir.This is a warm home where numerous photographs tell of a family life well-lived.

Beyond the sitting room window is the orchard Neil planted when Harriet was eight and ‘straight up the drive a little house that was our garage but was falling down.

‘I kept saying to Neil, “We ought to make it into something before it’s a pile of stones.” ‘

Neil may well be a ‘stupid idiot’ but he’s her stupid idiot and she’s not giving up on him.

‘Marriages evolve over the years. You grow together or grow apart. We’ve grown together. I have a lovely wife. She’s been amazing,’ he says. ‘On that Saturday morning [a week after Neil had the Conservative Party whip withdrawn] we got up and Sue said, “I think you should go and resign.” I said, “OK.”

He said: 'Maybe I deserve to be treated like s*** but I don't think I did, actually.I was a stupid man. I did the wrong thing but even when you do the right thing — tell the truth and go — they feed on your political carcass'

He said: ‘Maybe I deserve to be treated like s*** but I don’t think I did, actually.I was a stupid man. I did the wrong thing but even when you do the right thing — tell the truth and go — they feed on your political carcass’

‘Then I talked to my son and daughter. So it was, in the end, a family decision and, in the end, the right decision. I’ve lost a good political career but hopefully I have still got a good marriage.’

You sense he’s willing Sue to agree.‘He had to fall on his sword, really,’ she says. ‘What Neil did was wrong but, let’s say, the whole thing could have been handled better, particularly when you compare it to people who go out and grope people and do unseemly things.’

She’s referring to the disgraced Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher — or, as Neil says: ‘Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.’ (Pincher resigned and apologised for ‘embarrassing’ himself, but it’s understood he denies allegations of sexual assault.)

‘First of all, people shouldn’t be looking over other people’s shoulders when they’re looking at their mobiles.It’s quite hard to see [the screen] You have to really crane.

‘Secondly, he was just in a little corner somewhere. He wasn’t in the middle of the chamber waving it around. There was no business going on. He was just waiting for votes.He hates to wait.

‘He can’t bear it, whether it’s traffic lights or anything. He also has a low boredom threshold.

‘I was a teacher and had, say, a child in class been looking at things they shouldn’t have been, I’d have just told them off.I mean, I don’t condone what Neil did but they [the two female Conservative MPs who reported him] could have just tapped him on the shoulder and told him off and said, “It’s not the thing to do.”

‘He would have been so shocked that would have been the end of it and it would have saved an awful lot of bother, wouldn’t it?

‘He went to the Chief Whip and asked if he could apologise to the women. He said, “Please”.’ She shakes her head.

‘Anyway, they got their comeuppance [in the by-election] didn’t they: an awfully nice Liberal Democrat and good luck to him.Serves them right. I don’t know what ails these people really. They must lead sad lives.’

She falls back into the cushions behind her, her fury spent.

He said: ‘The crux of the matter is I never intended to offend. It was 11.30 at night. We'd had about 12 votes. I was sitting there minding my own business or doing the wrong thing in the far corner of the chamber. Got bored. Shouldn't have been doing it'

He said: ‘The crux of the matter is I never intended to offend.It was 11.30 at night. We’d had about 12 votes. I was sitting there minding my own business or doing the wrong thing in the far corner of the chamber. Got bored. Shouldn’t have been doing it’

Neil is silent for a moment.He has been beside himself since losing his career. He cares deeply about the countryside having served on the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development throughout his time in the European Parliament and more recently was a hugely respected chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

He hasn’t, though, always toed the party line, opposing same-sex marriage and rebelling against a three-line whip to vote for a referendum on EU membership.

‘When you’ve blown up your political career — and it was a good one — the feelings, as you can imagine, are unbelievable.

‘Some mornings you wake up and think, “It was a nightmare. It never happened.”

‘But it did and when you [remember] it did you could do anything in that time.I couldn’t cope with it, to be honest with you. You go completely cold in the end. I’m a genuine man who’s worked bloody hard all my life.

‘Maybe I deserve to be treated like s*** but I don’t think I did, actually. I was a stupid man. I did the wrong thing but even when you do the right thing — tell the truth and go — they feed on your political carcass.

‘The crux of the matter is I never intended to offend.It was 11.30 at night. We’d had about 12 votes. I was sitting there minding my own business or doing the wrong thing in the far corner of the chamber. Got bored. Shouldn’t have been doing it.

‘I never intended for [the female MPs] to see it.If they’d gone to the Chief Whip and said, “Look, he needs to be sorted,” as you can imagine, I would never have looked at it again. And, my God, I’m not going to in any way because this is a shock treatment like no tomorrow.

‘Instead, when I asked if I could apologise to them, his words were, “No. I have encouraged them to refer you to the Standards.”

‘He looked at me — and I’m not going to exaggerate because I will take this to my grave — he looked at me as though I had committed murder.I just looked at him in horror and basically he said, “I will not discuss it with you further.”

‘My God, I’m not justifying what I did and it’s not right, perhaps, to cover it up but, let’s face it, this is your own side.

‘I actually behave well towards women in Parliament.I’m very polite. I have banter with everybody. I don’t make unwanted advances on people.’ What about wanted advances?

‘Never in Parliament.’ Outside Parliament? ‘I tried to sort of control that and have done,’ he says with the astonishing honesty that is much a part of him as, well, that sex drive.

‘It’s just — this is why the scissors and all these things Sue used to calm me down — I just have these urges.I’m not bullsh****** you. It’s an all right marriage, really. She’s very good and I know I’m not perfect but I’m not a bad husband, I think.’

And Sue? I follow her to the kitchen where the scissors are in a drawer. ‘I only used to run around with those things in jest,’ she says.

‘You have to have jest in a marriage otherwise things get very boring.’

Which hers certainly isn’t.Her eyes twinkle. Snippety snip.

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