A British lawmaker from the ruling Conservative Party has resigned after admitting he watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.
Neil Parish, a member of Parliament since 2010, announced his decision on Saturday after pressure from members of his own party who sought to defuse allegations of contempt before Britain held its local elections on May 5.
The vote is seen as pivotal for Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is already facing a backlash from voters over parties breaking lockdowns on government offices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parish, 65, resigned after what he described as a moment of “madness”. Parish, chairman of the House Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said he had been trying to view a tractor site, but stumbled across a porn site with a similar name and watched it “a little”.
“My biggest crime is that on another occasion I went for the second time,” he told the BBC. “And that was deliberate.”
Reports that a lawmaker watched pornography amid the House of Commons’ historic green benches prompted a flurry of complaints from women in Parliament about the misogyny and sexual harassment they faced while doing their jobs.
Long known for its macho and drunken culture, Parliament is now a more diverse place, with women occupying nearly 40% of seats in the House of Commons. But lawmakers and officials say harassment and inappropriate behavior are still common under a system that largely allows members to police themselves.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Parish’s resignation should be a moment for people across the UK to say “enough is enough”.
“I don’t think there could be any other outcome to what has come to light about this particular MP in the last few days,” she said while campaigning in Fife, Scotland. “Watching pornography on a cell phone in the House of Commons when you are there representing voters is simply unacceptable.”
Parish rejected the notion that he intended to bully anyone.
“Despite all my hits and misses, I wasn’t proud of what I was doing,” he said. “And the one thing I wasn’t doing, which I’ll take to my grave as being true, is that I wasn’t really making sure people could see it. In fact, I was trying to do the exact opposite.”
The scandal comes at a precarious time for Johnson, who will face pressure to resign if the Conservatives do poorly in local elections.