Nigel Evans is a conservative and a Conservative.
He’s been a Conservative politician since 1985, when he was elected a councillor for West Glamorgan (the former administrative county in Wales that is now Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot). In 1992, he won Ribble Valley in Lancashire for the Conservative Party, and held it for them until last year when he lost the Tory Whip and became an independent. He held it through the 1997, 2001, 2005, and 2010 general elections.
From June 2001 to November 2003, Evans was Shadow Secretary of State for Wales: he was appointed a Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party from November 2004 to December 2005: from June 2010 to 10th September 2013, he was First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means – that is, the second deputy Speaker of the House.
Nigel Evans is on trial for rape, indecent assault twice, and six counts of sexual assault, and it is further alleged by the prosecution that the following named, senior Conservatives knew of his record of sexual assaults at least since 2003. Evans denies all charges.
Conservatives named by the prosecution as aware Evans had sexually assaulted someone:
- Patrick McLoughlin, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales since 1986, and now Secretary of State for Transport;
- Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire since 1992, Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party for Parliamentary Campaigning;
- Iain Corby, managing director of the Policy Research Unit – who, incidentally, appears to have deleted both his personal and professional Twitter accounts;
- John Randall, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 1997, who was until October last year the Deputy Chief Whip;
- Mark Hoban, MP for Fareham, who was until October last year Iain Duncan Smith’s deputy at DWP.
There are also several other named and unnamed less senior Conservative MPs who apparently knew or should have known about Evans. But nothing was done until someone told John Bercow in March 2013, who reported the situation to the police.
Nigel Evans came out as gay in the Mail on Sunday in 2010, apparently advised to do so by other MPs a year earlier who had construed his behaviour over the years as a drinking problem combined with living in the closet:
A year before the 2010 general election, Mr Evans was advised by Mr McLoughlin, now a minister for transport, to come out as gay, the court heard. This followed an alleged assault on a parliamentary aide who claimed the Tory grabbed hold of his penis as he slept at his home in Pendleton, Lancashire, which was also reported to Tory whip Michael Fabricant.
The alleged incident was also discussed with Iain Corby, Corby, managing director of the Policy Research Unit, Mr McLoughlin and his deputy John Randall. The jury was told that the timing was considered “unfortunate” because it was less than a year before a general election.
It was agreed that Mr Evans should not resign – despite the wishes of the alleged victim that he do so – but would seek help for his drinking and that he should “not put himself in situations which could be misconstrued”. He was then told that he should come out as gay, said Mark Heywood QC, for the prosecution.
When Nigel Evans decided to stand for election as Deputy Speaker in 2010, Conor Burns – who had once helped Evans to bed and away from a young man he had allegedly sexually assaulted in the Number 10 bar of the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool during the 2003 Conservative party conference – advised him to
“socialise with MPs and not with young people or researchers”. It’s alleged that a “plastered” Nigel Evans, at that 2003 Blackpool conference, had approached a young man who was drinking with a journalist friend and put his hands down his trousers. This incident was reported to a member of the Conservative Party Board and is said to have been referred to Mark Hoban, then a junior Tory Party whip.
Although the party worker was “clearly upset and considered that he was a victim of a sexual assault”, he did not want the matter referred to the police or to become a disciplinary matter.
What else could a young man who wanted a career in the Tory party say when he had been handled by a man who had been a Conservative MP for 11 years, had been Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, was shortly to become a Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party? I doubt very much if Mark Hoban – presuming reports are accurate – urged the young man to report the assault to the police.
Nigel Evans said in September 2013, when he resigned as Deputy Speaker:
“As many of you will know following recent allegations, I was charged with alleged offences yesterday. I now have the opportunity to robustly defend my innocence and seek acquittal. I have therefore decided the best course of action is for me to return to the backbenches and this is a decision I have made myself after careful consideration.
“I did not have the Conservative whip as deputy speaker and I am not seeking its return until after the conclusion of events. I will sit as an independent MP for the Ribble Valley.”
Research has tended to show that most rapists commit multiple acts of rape and sexual assault. Rape is not a consequence of drinking too much, or of living in the closet, or of getting “mixed signals”: rape is a violent act of sexual entitlement.
Nigel Evans is entitled to a fair trial. But, supposing that he is convicted, and that it is proved all of these senior Conservative party members and MPs knew and did nothing until John Bercow finally went outside of the party and parliamentary structure and told the police (after Evans had, allegedly, raped a young man who was staying in his house after a party): what are the consequences for them?
None, I suspect. The Catholic Church has long demonstrated that knowing, and doing nothing, but urging the rapist to mend his ways, is an excellent method of escaping any legal sanction. But I hope, under the circumstances, that Rape Crisis Centres in each of those constituencies hold a very special hustings before the 2015 general election.
Update, 12th April: Nigel Evans was acquitted on all charges.
A barrister friend of Nigel Evans, Henry Hendron, allegedly jeopardised his trial with an “irresponsible” blog: Hendron was said by the trial judge Sir Timothy Roger Alan King to have committed “a very serious contempt of court” and the prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said “the online comments had caused at least one of the alleged victims to consider pulling out of the trial.”
Henry Hendron said that he had put the blog online with “the full intention of creating an upbeat mood for my friend Nigel Evans” – while he was on trial for rape and sexual assault: and that he got the idea “after some friends of Oscar Pistorius did the same during his trial in South Africa” – who is on trial for murdering Reeva Steenkamp.
In the wake of Nigel Evans’s acquittal on rape and sexual assault charges, and the ongoing disquiet around Lord Rennard’s ongoing presence at Westminster, Channel 4 News broadcast an investigation into sexual conduct in parliament. Convention in such cases demands that my next remark is “and the results were shocking” – except of course that they weren’t to anyone already of the opinion that the entire place is a depressing hotbed of 30-years-outmoded attitudes and unimaginative iniquity.
Of the 70 people researchers spoke to across the parties, a third had personally experienced sexual harassment, and a further 21% had witnessed others being harassed or had been the confidant of someone who had been a victim. Needless to say, no one felt able to speak on the record for fear of harming their career prospects.