Neil Parish won't stand in Honiton and Tiverton by-election

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish. Picture AHLF

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish. Picture AHLF - Credit: Archant

Former MP Neil Parish, who resigned following revelations that he had watched pornography in the House of Commons, will not be standing in the upcoming Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

Speaking with the Local Democracy Reporting service Mr Parish said he had 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 candidate, local ex-headteacher Helen Hurford.

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.”

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Mr Parish said it is 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. “[There’s] lots of things I get my teeth into” he added.

Mr Parish 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.

He said 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 a more background role for himself in the future “once the storm is over – and the storm is dying down now.”

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

As well as Helen Hurford for the Conservatives, 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, have named Andy Foan as their candidate.

The Conservatives are defending a majority of more than 24,000 votes from the 2019 general election.