Former Tory MP Neil Parish plots political comeback

Neil Parish is plotting a remarkable political comeback. The disgraced former Tory MP, who quit after being found watching porn in the House of Commons after claiming he was searching for a combine harvester online, is looking for redemption.

And he hopes to find that by standing as an independent in the Tiverton and Honiton seat he was forced out of earlier this year.

This would mean overturning the 6,144 majority won in spectacular style by the Liberal Democrat's Richard Foord, who overturned Mr Parish’s own 24,239 majority in June – the largest ever majority lost in by-election history.

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But before he does that, the 66-year-old is seriously considering an attempt to win his seat in Parliament back.

Former MP Neil Parish. Picture: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA Wire
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“I’ll run as an independent if I think I can win,” he revealed.

“Am I trying to rehabilitate myself? Well, yes, it is partly that, but it’s also I do have a genuine desire to continue to fight for what I have done throughout my political career.

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“I think I can do some good both for people, for food, for farming, for society.”

Mr Parish ruled out running for re-selection as a Tory – “once you’re out, you’re out” he notes – as he said “I don’t think they would have me”.

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If he does run as an independent he may be up against his successor as the Tory candidate, Helen Hurford, who told BBC Radio Devon listeners last week that she would not be a “one trick pony” and intends to have another shot at the seat next time round.The election is probably two years away, however. So having got over the shock of being ousted after 12 years in Parliament, Mr Parish, a farmer and former chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, is about to launch an agricultural podcast.

“When it all happens, you feel as though you have to race around for solutions,” he says of the furore that surrounded his Commons misdemeanour. “I’ve stopped racing and I’m taking things more calmly now.

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“I think I’ve arrived at a point where I’m accepting of the situation, and I’m moving onto something where I think I can do some good for people.”

Part one of his redemption will see him launch a new career in broadcasting with a podcast on which he will discuss the issues of interest to him and many of his constituents – farming.

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And like pretty much everyone else, Mr Parish is convinced Liz Truss will win the keys to No 10, but he, and his wife Sue, voted for her opponent and former chancellor Rishi Sunak. However, he has not been impressed with how the leadership election has gone down with voters so far.

“It’s been fairly disastrous, to be honest,” he says. “They’ve not really come up with anything terribly dramatic. Nothing to really tackle to cost-of-living crisis. I have some fear and trepidation, to be honest with you, about where it’s all going.”

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