The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, the openly gay Conservative MP Nigel Evans, who was arrested on Saturday amidst claims of rape and sexual assault, has said he is “determined not to let these allegations destroy” his career, or him.
Speaking from Pendleton, near his Clitheroe constituency home, Mr Evans said on Monday that he had been trying to stay positive about the claims, which he has strongly denied.
He said: “What doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger. I’m trying to make sure in my own mind that I’m on that side,”
Former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, also came to the defence of Mr Evans, saying he did not believe the accusations against him, and that he should not be forced to resign.
“Nigel Evans has been a friend and colleague of mine for more than 20 years. I have known him in good times and bad times, and I simply do not believe these allegations against him.”
He said that Nigel Evans “should definitely continue the role as deputy speaker”, going on to say that there were three deputy speakers, and that “if necessary there can be a degree of burden-sharing”.
“If he were to resign now we would be in a terrible position where potentially every public office-holder could be open to blackmail and false stories in the media, triggering their resignation. He has not been charged and he has not been found guilty and we do still live in a country where you are presumed innocent until found guilty,” he continued, speaking to Radio 4′s Today programme.
Mr Mitchell refused to address the prospect of Mr Evans being charged, but he did acknowledge that the situation would be different, if he were.
The Guardian reported that the Speakers office was likely to be attempting to find out details of the charges, and circumstances of the allegations.
Some have speculated that Mr Mitchell’s support comes from his friendship with Mr Evans, however others have also said that he is probably speaking out because of an incident after which he resigned, when he was accused of calling police officers “plebs”, at the Downing Street gates.
On Monday, Mr Evans said the allegations against him were “completely false”, but that he would temporarily step down as deputy speaker. He said that he planned to watch the Queen’s speech this week. He said: “If there’s room in the Lords I’ll stay and listen; otherwise I’ll watch it on TV.”
Mr Evans was released on bail on Saturday after being arrested at his consistency home in Pendleton.
Before going to a local pub in his constituency on Sunday with close friends, Mr Evans said: “This has been, not with standing the loss of my Mum and the loss of my brother, very recently, the worst 24 hours of my life.
Earlier on Sunday, Mr Evans posted on Facebook: “Thanks for the amazing overwhelming support at this difficult time…”
Mr Evans, who previously voted against gay rights, while in the closet, is now a prominent and passionate supporter of LGBT issues in Parliament. He described supporting Section 28 as his “neanderthal phase.”
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