Nigel Evans the Conservative MP and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, has told the Mail on Sunday that he was threatened with being outed by a former Labour MP and that his decision to publicly come out was spurred on by Coronation Street star Vicky Entwistle.
In his first interview since revealing that he is gay, Mr Evans said that a former Labour MP threatened him with exposure. “The MP was saying to anyone who would listen, ‘Why is it that Nigel Evans leads a life whereby he is gay to some people and not others?’,” Mr Evants told the Mail on Sunday.
Although he refused to name the politician, Mr Evans told the newspaper: “I could not afford it to be used as leverage against me. I couldn’t take the risk. I don’t want any other MP to face that kind of nastiness again. I am sure there are other gay MPs who would like to be open about their sexuality but are fearful of the consequences. I hope this new group will help them to do so.”
He said that his decision to come out was partly as a result of a conversation a party to celebrate the 50th birthday of Coronation Street with the actress Vicky Entwistle, who plays Janice Battersby in the ITV soap opera.
“Vicky and I went for a drink after the party and she said to me, ‘You’re gay, aren’t you?’ It’s a subject I avoid usually but Vicky is very natural and I told her I was. I thought to myself, ‘I am now telling people I am gay – it’s time I did something about it and told everyone.’”
Mr Evans revealed that he also discussed coming out with Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas, who was previously in a heterosexual marriage but came out last year.
The MP says he now regrets not initially supporting the equalisation of heterosexual and homosexual ages of consent and the abolition of Section 28, designed to stop the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools.
“I was confused about how to protect youngsters at school. The law did the opposite of what was intended. We shouldn’t have been telling young people that being gay was wrong,” he told the Mail on Sunday. He also revealed he has rowed with Iranian politicians over the execution of young men for homosexuality.
Mr Evans told the newspaper that growing up in Wales, “it was hard enough being a Tory, let alone being gay. It wasn’t so much ‘the only gay in the village’ as the ‘only Tory in Swansea’.”
“Growing up in the Sixties, it just wasn’t done. There were just as many gay politicians as there are now but none of them was out. I realised I was gay when I was about 12 or 13, though at the time I wished I wasn’t. I thought I might just be going through a phase and that it would fade away. I had a girlfriend.”
“I suppressed it,” he added. “In those days you kept it quiet. It was more or less impossible to enter politics – in either party – as an openly gay person. When Margaret Thatcher was asked about homosexuals in the party she said, ‘Oh, we don’t talk about those sort of things.’ It was all swept under the carpet.
“But it has all changed. First we had people coming out as gay MPs, and now openly gay people are being elected to Parliament. It is so much better.”
Mr Evans also revealed that he was reluctant to come out while his mother was still alive. She died at the age of 86 last year. “I didn’t want to put her through the trauma, but I have a feeling I was using her as an excuse. I suspect she knew. And her reaction would have been like any other mum: as long as I was happy she was happy. She wouldn’t have minded at all. I could have taken her to the launch of ParliOut and she could have sat beside me.”
Mr Evans said that the decision to finally come out was settled when the energy minister Greg Barker, who recently came out asked him if he would mind being included in a list of gay politicians. “I thought this is just daft. I am not going to live a lie any more,” he told the newspaper.