The former Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish, whose resignation after watching porn in the House of Commons triggered the by-election in the Devon seat, has said Boris Johnson must “face reality” after losing the vote and MPs must decide the Prime Minister’s fate.
He said residents of the former Tory stronghold had spoken “loudly” by helping the Liberal Democrats overturn a 24,000 Conservative majority, a result Mr Johnson must look at “very seriously”.
Mr Parish told Breakfast on BBC Radio Devon on Friday: “What is becoming increasingly necessary is for the party, the MPs to consider what is the long-term position of the Prime Minister.
“The public are concerned.
“The people in Tiverton and Honiton have spoken and they’ve spoken loudly”.
He continued: “What we can’t do is ignore people.
“It is for the Prime Minister to look at this very seriously.
“The time for blustering I’m afraid is over, we’ve got to really face reality now.”
Mr Parish, who had been Tiverton and Honiton’s MP since 2010, said the result was “a shock and of course very much a sort of national vote really”.
He said the Conservative candidate to succeed him, Helen Hurford, “ran a good local campaign” but that “the party paid the price” for people’s concerns over the cost of living and the farming community’s unease about agriculture policy reforms.
“You can try and run a very good local campaign but we have a presidential-style of party politics in this country more than ever now, and of course it is the leader of your party and their reputation that is up for trial, especially in a by-election,” he said.
He said he “mainly” saw the result as a vote against Mr Johnson, adding MPs would have to decide whether the Prime Minister is a winner or not.
“At the end of the day it was a very safe seat, I did work hard and went cleanly and I think the emphasis now is for the party, the MPs to make that decision,” the former MP added.
He also told Times Radio the Prime Minister should “consider his position”, saying: “It wasn’t just Boris alone, but of course naturally that’s where the Liberal Democrats pitched it, and in fairness they won fair and square.”
Mr Parish was caught watching adult material on his mobile phone in the Commons chamber – actions that ultimately cost the long-standing parliamentarian his political career.
The 66-year-old said: “It’s a shame that I had to make such a terrible mistake and go in the way I had to go.”
Asked how he was feeling after his party’s by-election defeat, he said: “I have Covid so I’m not feeling too well generally.”