U.K. lawmaker resigns after viewing porn in House of Commons

LONDON (AP) — A British lawmaker from the governing Conservative Party has resigned after admitting he watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons chamber.

Neil Parish, a member of Parliament since 2010, announced his decision Saturday after pressure from members of his own party who sought to defuse sleaze allegations before Britain holds its local elections on May 5. The ballot is seen as pivotal for Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is already facing a voter backlash over lockdown-breaking parties in government offices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neil Parish, 65, stepped down after what he described as a moment of “madness.’’ Parish, chairman of the house’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said he was trying to look at a tractor website, but stumbled into a porn site with a similar name and watched it for “a bit.’’

“My biggest crime is that on another occasion I went in a second time,’’ he told the BBC. “And that was deliberate.’’

Reports that a lawmaker had watched porn amid the historic green benches of the House of Commons triggered a flood of complaints from women in Parliament about the misogyny and sexual harassment they have faced while doing their jobs.

Long known for its boozy, macho culture, Parliament is now a more diverse place, with women holding almost 40% of the seats in the House of Commons. But lawmakers and staff say harassment and inappropriate behavior are still rampant under a system that largely allows members to police themselves.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Parish’s resignation should be a moment for people across the U.K. to say “enough is enough.”

“I don’t think there could really be any other outcome to what has come to light about this particular MP over the last few days,” she said while campaigning in Fife, Scotland. “Watching porn on a mobile phone in the House of Commons when you’re there representing constituents is just unacceptable.”

Parish rejected the notion that he meant to intimidate anyone.

“For all my rights and wrongs, I was not proud of what I was doing,’’ he said. “And the one thing I wasn’t doing, and which I will take to my grave as being true, is I was not actually making sure people could see it. In fact, I was trying to do quite the opposite.’’

The scandal comes at a precarious moment for Johnson, who will face pressure to resign if the Conservatives do poorly in the local elections.