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Nick de Bois on Conservative MP scandals: The talkRADIO and talkTV political pundit, author, ex Tory MP and Bishop's Stortford resident makes an impassioned defence of the House of Commons

Conservative insider, broadcaster and Bishop's Stortford resident Nick de Bois has made an impassioned defence of the House of Commons.

The political pundit – a host on talkRADIO and talkTV – author and former MP gave his take to the Indie in the wake of a string of scandals at Westminster – and his message is clear.

"Now is not the time to lose faith in our democracy and our parliament. This is the very time to dig deep and embrace democracy at every level," he said.

Broadcaster, author and former Conservative MP Nick de Bois, who lives in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Vikki Lince
Broadcaster, author and former Conservative MP Nick de Bois, who lives in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Vikki Lince

On Thursday (May 19) the Metropolitan police ended their investigation into breaches of Covid-19 rules in 10 Downing Street and Whitehall. In all, Scotland Yard issued 126 fixed penalty notices concerning eight of 12 events investigated. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak each received one fine for breaking the law.

There has also been a string of sex scandals, most recently involving Conservative MPs.

Mr de Bois said: "Politicians are deeply unpopular at this time and that frankly is not in itself something new. Back in 1834, when the House of Commons was ravaged by fire, the public gathered on the South Bank of the Thames and cheered loudly.

House of Commons (56781352)
House of Commons (56781352)

"If, two centuries on, such a tragedy might befall the same place again, it would not surprise me if the gathering on the South Bank was even larger and louder.

"With so many scandals emerging from the House of Commons, the current crisis is not just about politicians' standing in the eyes of the public, but for many that we have a broken parliamentary system at a time of great risk and vulnerability for this country and that the system is broken."

This week it was revealed a Conservative MP has been arrested over rape and sexual assault allegations spanning 2002 to 2009. He was released on police bail until mid-June as inquiries continue. Allegations against the unnamed politician also include indecent assault, abuse of a position of trust and misconduct in public office.

Wakefield MP, the Conservative Imran Ahmad Khan, was found guilty in April of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008, although he has said he will appeal. He has been expelled from the party and stood down as an MP, triggering a by-election.

Imran Ahmad Khan (56781461)
Imran Ahmad Khan (56781461)

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish, who was chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, also resigned in April after he admitted to watching porn in the House of Commons chamber. The Tory claimed he stumbled upon the X-rated footage while searching for tractors on his phone.

Last year Delyn MP Rob Roberts was suspended from the Commons for sexually harassing a member of staff. The Welshman was readmitted to the Conservative party but now sits as an Independent.

Bridgend MP Jamie Wallis is to stand trial in July after pleading not guilty to failing to stop after a road traffic collision, failing to report it, careless driving and leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position after he was arrested on suspicion of "driving whilst unfit" following a late-night crash on November 28, 2021. In March, the Tory became the first MP to come out as trans in a statement which also revealed he had been raped and blackmailed.

Neil Parish (56781459)
Neil Parish (56781459)

Mr de Bois, 63, is well acquainted with Westminster life. He won the Enfield North seat for the Tories in 2010, left the Commons after a single term but returned as Dominic Raab's special adviser and chief of staff during his short tenure as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

He was also in the final four short-listed to be Hertford and Stortford's Conservative candidate in the December 2019 General Election but was beaten to the nomination by Julie Marson.

Julie Marson campaigning with Boris Johnson in Dagenham for the 2017 General Election (56781387)
Julie Marson campaigning with Boris Johnson in Dagenham for the 2017 General Election (56781387)

He said: "With the seemingly endless flow of horrific sexual assault claims, improper conduct, Partygate, Beergate and the conviction of MPs for fraud and sexual assault, is it any wonder that one of the most common responses to questions I put to viewers and guests on my talkTV show about the state of our politics is 'I'm not voting for any of them, they're all as bad as each other'?

"It follows that if Parliamentarians are in such disrepute, how can we trust them to lead us through these crises? The cry of 'a plague on both your houses' rings loud and clear, and with it the loss of faith in our democratic political institutions and leaders, insisting that they are out of touch and unfit to represent us.

"But that is a wrong calculation. For every scoundrel guilty of breaking the law, dozens more MPs are in the mould of the late and much-missed Sir David Amess or Jo Cox.

Sir David Amess (56781494)
Sir David Amess (56781494)

"For every MP that is exposed as acting in their own vested interests rather than those of their constituents, there are many, many more who tirelessly work in their constituents' interest.

"Take a look at an MP's constituency office and ask the folk waiting to see their MP why they are there. Often it will be because they have come up against the heavy bureaucratic hand of the state that is denying them the justice, the healthcare or the support that they desperately need and are entitled to, and they look to their MP for help.

"The good MPs are there when needed for the little guy, and though they may not always win for you, most always try."

As an MP, Mr de Bois successfully championed an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to extend the proposed mandatory prison sentences for those who use a knife to threaten or endanger life to include people aged under 18.

In 2015 the second part of "Enfield's Law" came into force, meaning adults caught carrying a knife for the second time in public face an automatic jail sentence of six months, with a four-month tariff for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Mr de Bois wrote a critically acclaimed book, Confessions of a Recovering MP, about his time in the Commons which was short-listed for the Political Books Awards 'Best Parliamentary Memoir 2018'.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during PMQs (56781393)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during PMQs (56781393)

He said: "Where else in the world is there such open, accessible parliament? There are few countries in the world where MPs are so easily available to constituents. I like the idea that once having seen my MP, within a matter of weeks they could be pressing a minister in the House of Commons on whatever issue I had raised.

"I relish the fact that every day in Parliament ministers are forced to face questions and challenges from MPs unable to hide behind officials and forced to rely on their own wits and competence or have that competence brutally exposed.

"And yes, while the weekly Prime Minister's Questions is often more theatre than substance, the fact remains that the PM of the day has to be there, accountable in public for their actions.

"Few other democracies, let alone governments, in the world deliver this or come close to what we do in our House of Commons, and those that do are modelled on our own system. Why give up on this? Is there really a better, alternative system of governance?

"We may debate both how and who we elect and despair at some of the dreadful failings of both the individuals and the rules that govern them. We all at times desperately seek a change of government, having lost faith and hope in whoever is in power, but surely these are reasons to engage in the political process and bring about change for the better, rather than succumb to the lazy narrative that none are worth voting for and, as a result, do nothing.

"When we are motivated to change we are often at our best. If your MP has failed you then by engaging in the political process that MP can be changed – yes, even in so-called safe seats... Amersham and Chesham 2021, anybody?

The Government front bench - from left, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid
The Government front bench - from left, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid

"If there is woefully inadequate local government, then there are few bars to stopping local people standing for council to bring about change themselves or simply vote for change. Yet currently only about 35% of the electorate turn out to actually vote at local elections, while I promise you far more subsequently complain about the state of politics having not bothered to vote.

"And therein lies the danger: the more disillusioned voters become, the less likely they are to get the change they desire. Didn't some former US President campaign on 'Change we can believe in', to which his supporters chanted 'Yes we can'? They were right.

"When, in 1834, hundreds of Londoners gathered opposite Parliament to cheer the fire that ripped through the Palace of Westminster, we may be tempted to sympathise with them. Yet it is also worth remembering that when they rebuilt the House of Commons from that new place great things happened and great leaders emerged – Peel, Disraeli, Gladstone, Bevan, Churchill and Atlee.

"It is not our democracy that is failing, just some of those we elect to represent us, and it is the strength of that same democracy that means we, the people, have the power to bring about change should we so wish it. That will not be achieved by abandoning or abstaining from the process."

* As well as Confessions of a Recovering MP, published by Biteback Publishing, Mr de Bois is the author of political thriller Fatal Ambition, available to order in paperback here or on Kindle from Amazon here.

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