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  • Gem Kirwan

Neil Parish and Misogyny in the Conservative Party

Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq

The world of politics is a minefield. It goes without saying that leading the nation through every manner of crisis— from climate change to a global pandemic to soaring living costs— is undoubtedly an incredibly difficult task. However, a task that is, comparatively, incredibly easy for any politician to succeed in is refraining from watching pornography on the job. Nevertheless, the Conservative Party finds itself in the throes of yet another scandal after Members of Parliament reported Tory MP Neil Parish for watching porn in the House of Commons on two separate occasions.

That’s right. In a tearful televised interview, the former MP for Tiverton and Honiton, who has now resigned, claimed that he accidentally stumbled onto a pornographic film while attempting to research tractors online in Parliament. Then, presumably wanting to double check it wasn’t just an extremely racy advertisement for combine harvesters, he proceeded to watch the video in the company of fellow MPs. Incredibly, in what Parish described as a “moment of madness”, he later returned to the same site to… entertain himself while sat in the House of Commons waiting to vote. Clearly, given Parish’s voting record, nothing gets this guy off like slaughtering badgers, slim-lining the welfare state and stamping out immigration.

Neil Parish’s resignation, which came less than a week before the council elections, is sadly only one episode in an ever-expanding series of accusations of misogyny in the Conservative Party over the past few weeks. Critics say that women Members of Parliament come under harsh scrutiny for their appearance, private lives, and manner of speaking whilst their male colleagues’ outrageous and unacceptable behaviour goes unchecked. After all, it took no time at all for reports to spread of the baseless and misogynistic accusation that Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner routinely attempted to distract the Prime Minister by flashing her legs at him in the House of Commons, yet it took almost three full days for Neil Parish to be suspended for openly watching porn in the same place. Worryingly, this demonstrates that Boris Johnson’s government is an environment where discrimination has been allowed to thrive, and that our leaders are indifferent to and even complicit in it.

Despite the Tories’ claims that there is no such culture of inequality within their party, it is evident that Parish’s actions are reflective of a wider, systemic problem within British politics that the Conservatives are in no rush to solve. In a country that is slowly sliding down the world gender equality rankings, where at least 71% of women have been made victim to misogyny but 83% of victims don’t trust the authorities to bring their abusers to justice, we desperately need people in government who we can trust to fix these problems, not people who help to perpetuate them. How can we trust a Prime Minister who campaigned to be an MP on the promise that “voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts” to take concerns about his colleagues’ misogyny seriously? How can we put our faith in a man who thinks the best method of shutting a woman up is to “pat her on the bottom and send her on her way” to tackle gender inequality within wider society?

Neil Parish’s actions are not those of a singular bad apple, but rather reminiscent of a wider complacency among the Conservative Government concerning gender inequality. And if Parliament is this ill-equipped to fix its own internal problems, there’s no chance they’ll be any use in tackling those plaguing women across the entire country.


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